Purpose of Peer Review

Peer review is a critical element of scholarly publication, and one of the major cornerstones of the scientific process. Peer Review serves two key functions:

·         Acts as a filter: Ensures research is properly verified before being published

·         Improves the quality of the research: rigorous review by other experts helps to hone key points and correct inadvertent errors


On Being Asked To Review

- Does the article you are being asked to review truly match the expertise of the reviewer?

Reviewers should only accept an invitation if you they competent to review the article.

- time to review the paper?

Will the reviewers have sufficient time before the deadline stipulated in the invitation to conduct a thorough review? If they cannot conduct the review they should let the editor know immediately, and if possible advise the editor of alternative reviewers.

- Are there any potential conflicts of interest?

They should all be listed when responding to the editor’s invitation for review. full disclosure to the editor will allow them to make an informed decision.


Conducting the Review

Reviewing needs to be conducted confidentially, the article should not be disclosed to a third party. Most editors welcome additional comments, but whoever else is involved will also need to keep the review process confidential. Although journal practices vary, most journals do not share the identity of the reviewer with the author. Reviewers should not reveal their names within the text of your review.

Reviewers should not attempt to contact the author.

Reviewers be aware that any recommendations they make will contribute to the final decision made by the editor.

Reviewers would be expected to evaluate the article according to the following:


- Originality

Is the article sufficiently novel and interesting to warrant publication? Does it add to the canon of knowledge? Does the article adhere to the journal's standards? Is the research question an important one? If the research has been covered previously, Reviewers  should pass on references of those works to the editor.

- Structure

Is the article clearly laid out? Are all the key elements (where relevant) present: abstract, introduction, methodology, results, conclusions? Reviewers  should consider each element in turn:

·         Title: Does it clearly describe the article?

·         Abstract: Does it reflect the content of the article?

                 Introduction: Does it describe what the author hoped to achieve accurately, and clearly state the problem being investigated? Normally, the introduction should summarize relevant research to provide context, and explain what other authors' findings, if any, are being challenged or extended. It should describe the experiment, the hypothesis(es) and the general experimental design or method.

                 Method: Does the author accurately explain how the data was collected? Is the design suitable for answering the question posed? Is there sufficient information present to replicate the research? Does the article identify the procedures followed? Are these ordered in a meaningful way? If the methods are new, are they explained in detail? Was the sampling appropriate? Have the equipment and materials been adequately described? Does the article make it clear what type of data was recorded; has the author been precise in describing measurements?

                 Results: This is where the author(s) should explain in words what he/she/they discovered in the research. It should be clearly laid out and in a logical sequence. has appropriate analysis been conducted. Are the statistics correct? Interpretation of results should not be included in this section.

                 Conclusion/Discussion: Are the claims in this section supported by the results, do they seem reasonable? Have the authors indicated how the results relate to expectations and to earlier research? Does the article support or contradict previous theories? Does the conclusion explain how the research has moved the body of scientific knowledge forward?

                 Language: If an article is poorly written due to grammatical errors, while it may make it more difficult to understand the science, Reviewers do not need to correct the English. they should bring this to the attention of the editor, however.

Finally, on balance, when considering the whole article, do the figures and tables inform the reader, are they an important part of the story? Do the figures describe the data accurately? Are they consistent, e.g. bars in charts are the same width, the scales on the axis are logical.


- Previous Research

If the article builds upon previous research does it reference that work appropriately? Are there any important works that have been omitted? Are the references accurate?

- Ethical Issues

·         Plagiarism: If Reviewers suspect that an article is a substantial copy of another work, they should let the editor know, citing the previous work in as much detail as possible

·         Fraud: It is very difficult to detect the determined fraudster, but if Reviewers suspect the results in an article to be untrue, they should discuss it with the editor

·         Other ethical concerns: For medical research, has confidentiality been maintained? Has there been a violation of the accepted norms in the ethical treatment of animal or human subjects? If so, then these should also be identified to the editor


Communicating Your Report to the Editor

Once Reviewers have completed their evaluation of the article the next step is to write up the report.

The report should contain the key elements of the review, addressing the points outlined in the preceding section. Commentary should be courteous and constructive, and should not include any personal remarks or personal details including names.

Providing insight into any deficiencies is important. Reviewers should explain and support their judgment so that both editors and authors are able to fully understand the reasoning behind their comments. They should indicate whether their comments are their own opinion or are reflected by the data.

When Reviewers make a recommendation regarding an article, it is worth considering the categories the editor most likely uses for classifying the article.
a) Reject (explain reason in report)
b) Accept without revision
c) Revise (either major or minor)
Last, clearly Reviewers  should identify what revision is required, and should indicate to the editor whether or not they would be happy to review the revised article.