I have heard PhD students are typically harsher reviewers for academic manuscripts than established researchers. They look for reasons to reject a paper, while more experienced reviewers look for reasons to accept. I lack the experience to say how true this is, but it makes intuitive sense to me.
Academia can be a rough place. Method papers describe how perfectly executed studies should look, reading only accepted publications in top venues creates the impression that is how every paper must be and reviewer responses can be devastating. I had the good fortune to meet very polite reviewers so far, but I have also seen feedback for other papers that would have destroyed me for weeks.
Recently, we had a paper accepted and a small, positive sidenote has been in my mind over since:
The manuscript is easy to read, the flow of its logic is clear, and the findings are presented with the necessary disclaimers and tentativeness required in such an exploratory study.
I always have a hard time reading my own writing towards the end. Every issue and awkward expression jumps out at me. But reading some positive feedback, from someone who can speak freely because they are anonymous, is balsam on the imposter syndrome battled soul. And it left enough of an impact that I am thinking about it still, weeks after I’ve read it.
I mainly write reviews for source code, but the experience left an impression on me. I will try to include some explicit, positive feedback for all future reviews and highlight the positive contributions as well. You never know who needs to read it.
Thank you, reviewer 3. I needed that.