When you first start writing manuscripts for publication, you may think that one or two rounds of revision will be required before the paper is ready. You send your `final version` to your supervisor expecting to receive it back with only minor comments and be able to submit it soon. In reality, however, it may take 20 more revision rounds and six more months before you can push the submit button.

Needing a lot of revision rounds does not mean you cannot write

Your struggles with writing and multiple revisions do not mean that you are not a writer and cannot write. You can develop writing skills as they are not a personality trait. Those struggles are just normal steps in the writing process. Everyone is struggling. It is important for new academics to understand that writing is a process. It is typical to go through 20 or 30 drafts and receive hundreds of comments from supervisors and/or co-authors. Lots of revisions and comments are normal.

Remember that your advisor is also investing time in those revisions. So, while it may be intimidating, it shows that they care about helping you improve your skills and that your career is important to them and worth their time and effort. You should take lengthy comments and lots of comments and suggestions positively. All those comments are, in fact, a sign that they care about you and your work. Constructive feedback is support.

Seasoned writers, such as your supervisor, also write 20 drafts of a manuscript or a grant application. However, they complete this process before sending it to their co-authors for feedback, so nobody sees all those drafts. It is not a question of right or wrong. It is just part of the process.

`Accept all changes` is the enemy of learning

Supervisors should provide feedback in the margins of the document, preferably on paper, rather than using the track changes function. This is because the ‘accept all changes’ button does not provide an opportunity for the writer to learn from the feedback. To learn from feedback, it is important to discuss why a particular change is being suggested. This will require more time and effort from the supervisor, but it will be beneficial to both parties. However, when time is short, such as when a deadline is approaching for a manuscript that is nearly finished, track changes can be used to speed up the process.

Another reason why using track changes in combination with the `accept all changes` option is not advisable is that not all suggested changes may need to be incorporated. A more experienced writer should be able to choose whether or not to include a suggested edit and be able to clearly defend that decision.

Revisions after submitting your manuscript

After submitting your manuscript to a journal for publication you will likely encounter one or more rounds of revision, depending on the suggestions by the reviewers. These revisions will further improve your article. You can read about that type of revision and how to handle it here.

If you need help with any part of the writing process, check the other blogs I wrote.

revision rounds
how many rounds of revision before it is final? (Picture by Jorge Cham from PhD Comics)