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Reading & Writing

Reviewing for a journal

Reviewing for a journal

As an academic, you may be invited to review manuscripts submitted to journals. The first time can feel daunting, but the learning experience is very worthwhile as it will improve critical appraisal and paper-writing skills.

First consider whether you feel you have the necessary expertise to review in the relevant subject area. Don’t be intimidated: you need some expertise in the subject plus the ability to critique the submitted paper fairly and make sensible suggestions.

  • If you’ve no experience of reviewing for a journal, ask a supervisor/senior colleague if you could look at their previous reviews or review a paper together.
  • Consider whether you have enough time to complete the review: deadlines are usually quite tight.
  • Recognise that there is no financial reward for being a reviewer: it is part and parcel of being an academic (although some journals may kindly offer a discount on their products or subscriptions as a means of thanks).
  • Read the paper and then re-read it critically.
  • The journal will usually give you a set of criteria by which to mark the paper (e.g. based on novelty, interest and scientific/ethical rigour). You will be asked to make a recommendation:

    • Accept
    • Accept following minor revisions
    • Accept following major revisions
    • Reject
  • The journal’s proforma will often separate comments to be shared in confidence with the Editor from comments which will be shared both with the Editor and the authors. Pay attention to this.
  • Be realistic about what you ask from the authors.
  • The Editor will make an overall decision based on the comments of all the reviewers. The comments of the other reviewers may be shared with you: it is a useful learning experience to compare them with your own.
  • If the authors receive an ‘accept with revisions’ offer, they will address the reviewers’ comments and make amendments to the paper. This information will be returned to you for your review. You need to decide whether your comments have been either adequately defended or acted upon in order for the paper to be accepted. Be aware that there is usually a tight deadline.
  • Be aware that the unpublished manuscript is confidential (be careful how you store/dispose of it).
  • Record on your CV the fact that you reviewed for the journal, including the reference number (omit confidential information such as the title and author list prior to publication).