Editorial

Peer review: how to do it well

Tips for peer reviewers to ensure they can influence what is published

Tips for peer reviewers to ensure they can influence what is published

Peer-reviewed journals rely on reviewers to provide critical appraisals of submitted papers to determine their suitability for publication. Editors decide whether a paper fits the journal scope and quality, but the peer-reviewer’s words help decide whether it is published.

Many reviewers have not undertaken education or training about peer review, so reflecting on the peer reviewers’ role and how they can positively contribute to the scholarly literature can improve the process for all.

Critical appraisal

The role of the peer reviewer is to critically appraise the authors’ work and identify flaws in approach or description.

A reviewer needs to accept that the authors

Tips for peer reviewers to ensure they can influence what is published

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Peer-reviewed journals rely on reviewers to provide critical appraisals of submitted papers to determine their suitability for publication. Editors decide whether a paper fits the journal scope and quality, but the peer-reviewer’s words help decide whether it is published.

Many reviewers have not undertaken education or training about peer review, so reflecting on the peer reviewers’ role and how they can positively contribute to the scholarly literature can improve the process for all.

Critical appraisal

The role of the peer reviewer is to critically appraise the authors’ work and identify flaws in approach or description.

A reviewer needs to accept that the authors did what they did and not what the reviewer might have done had they undertaken the research.

A focus on how the authors can improve their paper to describe what they did is more helpful than suggesting how the research could have been done differently. Requesting the authors cite the reviewers’ published work is inappropriate unless it is central to the paper under review.

Annotating papers

Peer review can be time-consuming, particularly for new reviewers. It is important to read the whole paper thoroughly before providing comments. Reviewers should provide feedback with points that authors can address or annotations on the paper so that areas of concern can be easily identified.

While overly lengthy reports are unnecessary, short single sentence reports often provide little guidance for authors or editors.

Positive feedback

Authors have generally undertaken significant work ahead of submission. Peer-reviews that are abrupt, inappropriately judgemental, or highly negative can be devastating for a novice author.

Long lists of words that a reviewer would prefer or vague comments that the paper is of poor quality with no examples of what is deemed problematic are unhelpful.

Instead, reviewers should provide positive, critical feedback that identifies aspects of the methodology or methods that need justification, and areas where clarification or detail can enhance the clarity of the paper.

Reviewer profile

Prospective reviewers can set up a reviewer profile, listing their current experience and expertise. With growing numbers of papers being published, there is an ever-increasing number of requests for peer review.

Providing a quick response if you are unable or unsuitable to review a paper allows another prospective reviewer to be approached. This reduces undue delays in the review process.

Keeping track of reviews that you have agreed to undertake and returning reviews by the due date optimises the review process.

Nurse Researcher is always looking for new reviewers. Contact helen.hyland@rcni.com Find out more here


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