In September, I submitted my first ever manuscript to an academic journal. That was exciting! Some time after, I heard back from the journal. My manuscript has been tentatively accepted (that’s good!). One of the reviewers had very positive, encouraging comments about my manuscript and only recommended minor changes (also good!). But then there was the other reviewer. This individual had even more comments, many of which were negative, and suggested major changes to the manuscript before possible publication (this is not good). My first response after reading these reviews was simple exhaustion. I worked so hard on this manuscript and had reached a point where I could only look at it sadly while shaking my head. I could not begin to contemplate making major changes to it. My major professor recommended that I step away from the reviews for a few days and then come back to them (hopefully less emotionally).
And I that’s what I did. Since I’ve come back to the reviews, I find myself still struggling with the criticism. How could two individuals have such different opinions on my topics, method, writing, and sources? How could they know my research area throughly enough to provide me with solid, relevant suggestions when I’ve been reading, thinking, and writing about it for months? This is also my first experience with peer reviews, which means there is a lot that I just don’t understand. So much. Mostly, I struggle to accept the criticism. I imagine it gets easier the more manuscripts you submit, the more research you share at conferences, and the more involved you become in the academic community. But knowing this doesn’t help the present feelings I’m experiencing: inadequacy, confusion, and frustration. As someone who has never accepted criticism without tears or frustration, knowing putting myself out there for certain criticism (usually constructive!) is very very hard. I imagine that there are many, many researchers who are struggling with these same issues. To end on a positive note, the semester is coming to an end, which means no classes, plenty of time for catch up work, and (possible) fun reading. Also, I have another paper under peer review so…. *cue suspenseful music*
How do you deal with constructive criticism (or just plan criticism)? Does this process get easier or do you just develop a tougher skin? Any suggestions on how to approach peer reviews in a more objective manner?