Reviewer guidelines and best practice

 

   Peer review is the system for evaluating the quality, validity, and relevance of scholarly research. The process aims to provide authors with constructive feedback from relevant experts which they can use to make improvements to their work, thus ensuring it is of the highest standard possible. Authors expect reviews to contain an honest and constructive appraisal, which is completed in a timely manner and provides feedback that is both clear and concise.

What is peer review?

Peer review, also known as refereeing, is a collaborative process that allows manuscripts submitted to a journal to be evaluated and commented upon by independent experts within the same field of research. The evaluation and critique generated from peer review provides authors with feedback to improve their work and, critically, allows the editor to assess the paper’s suitability for publication in the journal. The peer-review process does receive much criticism and is not without its limitations; however, it remains a widely recognized standard in terms of journal quality.

Why review?

  • To help authors improve their papers, applying your professional expertise to help others.
  • To assist in maintaining a good, rigorous peer-review process resulting in the publication of the best and brightest – you can have a part in championing the next key paper in your own field of interest.
  • To maintain awareness of the current research emerging within your subject area.
  • To build relationships with the editorial team of a journal and improve your academic and professional profile.
  • Although often anonymous, the review process can act as a conversation between author, reviewer, and editor as to how the paper can be improved to maximize its impact and further research in the field.
  • Help to draw attention to any gaps in references and make the author aware of any additional literature that may provide useful comparison, or clarification of an approach.
  • To gain a sense of prestige in being consulted as an expert.

What to consider before saying 'yes' to reviewing

Before agreeing to review for a journal, you should take note of the following:

  • What form of review does the journal operate? (single/blind/open)
  • How you will need to submit your review – for example, is there a structured form for reviewers to complete or will you be required to write free text?
  • Papers and correspondence sent to reviewers in the course of conducting peer review are to be dealt with as privileged confidential documents.
  • If a conflict of interest exists, you should make the editor aware of this as soon as possible.
  • Whether you are able to complete the level of review required by the editor in the allotted time – extensions can be provided or a brief report may suffice on some occasions. If you are struggling to meet the deadline, let the editor know, so they can inform the author if there is a delay.

Writing a review: a step-by-step guide

Research:

1. Investigate the journal’s content

  • Visit the journal homepage (on Taylor & Francis Online) to get a sense of the journal’s published content and house style. This will help you in deciding whether the paper being reviewed is suitable or not.
  • Refer to the Instructions for Authors to see if the paper meets the submission criteria of the journal (e.g. length, scope, and presentation).
  • Complete the review questions or report form to indicate the relative strengths or weaknesses of the paper.
  • A referee may disagree with the author’s opinions, but should allow them to stand, provided they are consistent with the available evidence.
  • Remember that authors will welcome positive feedback as well as constructive criticism from you.

Writing your report:

2. Make an assessment

  • Complete the review questions or report form to indicate the relative strengths or weaknesses of the paper.
  • A referee may disagree with the author’s opinions, but should allow them to stand, provided they are consistent with the available evidence.
  • Remember that authors will welcome positive feedback as well as constructive criticism from you.

3. Answer key questions

The main factors you should provide advice on as a reviewer are the originality, presentation, relevance, and significance of the manuscript’s subject matter to the readership of the journal.

Try to have the following questions in mind while you are reading the manuscript:

  • Is the submission original?
  • Is the research cutting edge or topical?
  • Does it help to expand or further research in this subject area?
  • Does it significantly build on (the author’s) previous work?
  • Does the paper fit the scope of the journal?
  • Would you recommend that the author reconsider the paper for a related or alternative journal?
  • Should it be shortened and reconsidered in another form?
  • Would the paper be of interest to the readership of the journal?
  • Is there an abstract or brief summary of the work undertaken as well as a concluding section? Is the paper complete?
  • Is the submission in Standard English to aid the understanding of the reader? For non-native speakers, an English editing service may be useful (see our Author Services website for advice).
  • Is the methodology presented in the manuscript and any analysis provided both accurate and properly conducted?
  • Do you feel that the significance and potential impact of a paper is high or low?
  • Are all relevant accompanying data, citations, or references given by the author?

Other aspects to consider

Abstract – Has this been provided (if required)? Does it adequately summarize the key findings/approach of the paper?

Length – Reviewers are asked to consider whether the content of a paper is of sufficient interest to justify its length. Each paper should be of the shortest length required to contain all useful and relevant information, and no longer.

Originality – Is the work relevant and novel? Does it contain significant additional material to that already published?

Presentation – Is the writing style clear and appropriate to the readership? Are any tables or graphics clear to read and labeled appropriately?

References – Does the paper contain the appropriate referencing to provide adequate context for the present work?

4. Make a recommendation

Once you’ve read the paper and have assessed its quality, you need to make a recommendation to the editor regarding publication. The specific decision types used by a journal may vary but the key decisions are:

  • Accept – if the paper is suitable for publication in its current form.
  • Minor revision – if the paper will be ready for publication after light revisions. Please list the revisions you would recommend the author makes.
  • Major revision – if the paper would benefit from substantial changes such as expanded data analysis, widening of the literature review, or rewriting sections of the text.
  • Reject – if the paper is not suitable for publication with this journal or if the revisions that would need to be undertaken are too fundamental for the submission to continue being considered in its current form.

5. Provide detailed comments

  • These should be suitable for transmission to the authors: use the comment to the author as an opportunity to seek clarification on any unclear points and for further elaboration.
  • If you have time, make suggestions as to how the author can improve clarity, succinctness, and the overall quality of presentation.
  • Confirm whether you feel the subject of the paper is sufficiently interesting to justify its length; if you recommend shortening, it is useful to the author(s) if you can indicate specific areas where you think that shortening is required.
  • It is not the job of the reviewer to edit the paper for English, but it is helpful if you correct the English where the technical meaning is unclear.

Think about the following when compiling your feedback:

  • Does the paper make a significant contribution to contemporary [subject]?
  • Is the research likely to have an impact on [subject] practice or debate?
  • Does the paper present or expand upon novel or interesting ideas?
  • Is the paper likely to be of sufficient interest to be cited by other researchers?
  • Are the methods, analysis, and conclusions robust and to a high standard?
  • Is the paper well integrated and up to date with the existing body of literature?
  • Being critical whilst remaining sensitive to the author isn’t always easy and comments should be carefully constructed so that the author fully understands what actions they need to take to improve their paper. For example, generalized or vague statements should be avoided along with any negative comments which aren’t relevant or constructive.

 

Important Note:

Since we follow the double-blind system of peer reviewing, the following measures are to be taken by reviewers before submitting their attachments:

  • Reviewers should remove any information that reveals the originator’s identity.
  • Authors and Reviewers should not send any attachments via e-mail.  The attachments are to be made via the online peer review system accessed on the journal site.

Confidentiality:

The review process is strictly confidential and should be treated as such by reviewers. Reviewers must not take any confidential information they have gained in the review process and use it before the paper is published. Even after publication, unless they have the permission of the authors to use other information, reviewers may only use publicly published data and not information from any earlier drafts.

 

 

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DOI:10.22362/ijcert


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