Become a reviewer

Guidance for RCNi Reviewers

There is an email in my inbox asking whether I can review an article.

It includes the abstract of the article so I can check what it’s about and that I am a suitable reviewer, a date by which the review is requested and a link to the full article online.

I have the option to say ‘thanks but no thanks’, ‘yes, but can I have more time to review?’ or simply ‘yes’.

The URL address in the email that takes me to the submission, attachments and the templated report form.

Personally I try to attend to reviews within a couple of days of the request.

Once I have accepted the request to review the article, I read it for the first time. Several things become apparent at this stage: whether the abstract reflects the content of the article, for example, if it is a continuing professional development article, whether the content supports the claimed aim and intended learning outcomes.

I will also be alerted to any external references, guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence for example. I may be familiar with these publications but as a professional I’d want to refresh my memory of these so I can judge whether the author’s account is accurate.

One of the most important judgements I make at this stage is whether the article’s purpose, namely to review, to explain or to advocate, is clear and whether the author is addressing the right readership. This is important because journals cater for different communities of readers, for nurses working with particular clientele.

My reviewer guidelines then direct my second read of the article, during which I ask the following questions.


Is what the author argues factually accurate, is it up to date and show an awareness of the debates and policies relevant in this area of practice? If theories are presented, are these adequately explained? The references should be relevant and appropriately modern.

Skills and understanding

Authors need to demonstrate skills. Have they found a way to lead the reader through the account of the chosen subject, explaining salient terms, deciding what to explain first? Good signposting in an article makes it easier to read, and deciding why and where to use illustrations, tables and boxes in text is important, as is referring to these in the text.


Authors adopt a position on subject matter; they focus on some things and not others, they argue particular cases and they accept some information as axiomatic. My job is not to prescribe attitudes or values to be conveyed in an article, but to challenge any that bring into question the Nursing and Midwifery Council code of conduct for nurses. Some of my feedback may alert authors to the possible consequences of adopting a particular perspective. It might not affect whether I recommend the article for publication, but I alert the author to possible concerns that might arise after publication.

Application and synthesis

Not all articles produce a clear ‘so what’ conclusion but they do need to help the reader appreciate the state of knowledge today. Ideas need to be applied, competing arguments compared, the relevance to nursing made clear. Much of my feedback will centre on whether the account is brought together and related to the practice interests, needs and concerns of readers.

I am now ready to write up my report. The review is written using a template questionnaire as a guide but I like as well to annotate the author’s script because this for me is often the best way to highlight what needs adjustment.

I can recommend rejection, major or minor revision to the text or acceptance of the article. There is space to sum up my points to the author and independently and confidentially to the editor. The review template helps me to make sure that I cover the important points. I can then attach the script with my annotations. I might see a second, revised version of this article later, which is gratifying because I can then understand what the author has taken from my critique. Seeing improvement in articles encourages me as a reviewer.

Become a reviewer

To become a reviewer for articles in our journal, please contact the journal editor.

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