Becoming a reviewer is a fantastic opportunity
When it comes to new work opportunities, my motto has always been: just say ‘Yes’.
This has led me to many fantastic opportunities and experiences, which have included reviewing for professional journals.
When I first said ‘yes’ to this, I felt excitement, anticipation and honour at being asked. But there were also nerves and self-doubt in my ability to perform this role successfully: I was unsure if I was right in what I thought about the article and what needed re-writing, and whether I could present my thoughts well.
Luckily for me, I had an amazing mentor who guided me through the process and this experience led me to apply successfully to become a regular reviewer for Nurse Researcher journal.
When the first article appeared in my inbox, again I just said ‘yes’ and again doubted my ability. I set about the task though and found that my background in academia, which involves mentoring and facilitating students and working as a course convenor, helped me to assess the structure and flow, how the objectives had been achieved, whether it was interesting and so on.
I was conscious throughout the process that someone, or a group of ‘someones’, had invested a great deal of time and effort into producing this piece of work. But it is important to remember that, as a reviewer, the job you have been asked to do is crucial to the future of professional nursing; you are accountable and responsible for ensuring that only the best articles are published because these are what future practice is based upon. The care you may receive one day may be due to an article that you once reviewed.
It is important though also to be realistic and accept reviews that are within your scope of practice, knowledge base and interest area. If you think you can make a meaningful contribution to the sharing of best practice within your field of practice, maximise the opportunity that presents itself and say ‘yes’. Certainly use the support around you and ask for advice and guidance but ensure that the thoughts reflected in your feedback are your own and that someone else doesn’t write the review for you; in this way, you too can push yourself to learn as much as you can from the exercise.
But don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ occasionally; there are times when your workload prevents you from saying ‘yes’, and being unable to achieve the deadline required lets you down and affects the editors and publication schedule. The authors have put a lot of time and effort into creating their manuscript so, whether it is good or bad, they deserve feedback in a constructive and timely manner. Imagine if you had put the effort in; you would want to be treated with respect and this includes timely feedback.
Seeing other peer reviewers’ comments on a second review of an article was also helpful. This allowed me to identify aspects of the article I may have missed and where we agreed and disagreed. Doing so can help to develop, encourage and support the novice reviewer.
The feedback you provide should be constructive, even if the manuscript is awful. Provide guidance and explain your feedback; be critical but offer words of support. In such circumstances, I try to imagine the manuscript as being mine and what I would want to know and need to achieve for it to be accepted for publication.
As an author or as a reviewer, you don’t know what you can achieve until you try. My aim is to become a ‘go to’ person when editors want an article to be reviewed and this I can achieve only by saying ‘yes’, most of the time.
Become a reviewer
To become a reviewer for articles within our journal, please contact the journal editor.
- Ghosh R (2016) Revelations on my journey to becoming an excellent reviewer. New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development. 28, 3, 48-52.
About the author
Elizabeth Wake is a trauma research coordinator at Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service, Queensland, Australia.