Our popular reviewer guidelines were created to support our valued peer reviewers and ensure they have all the information they need to write an effective review.
Drawing on these and other scholars’ ideas, we’ve come up with some of the most important things to remember when writing a review of a journal submission. Whether you are a seasoned reviewer, or just getting started, we hope you find these guidelines and suggestions helpful.
Communication is key
Are you overdue with your report, or have your circumstances changed? Let the editor know as soon as possible so that they can adjust timelines accordingly or, if required, find an alternative reviewer. Good communication with the editorial office can help avoid delays in the peer-review process, which is good news for everyone involved.
Avoid one liners
Your review should help the author to improve their paper, so aim to provide detailed and constructive comments. Key questions to consider when making your assessment are: is the paper original? Is the relative contribution made to the existing literature good enough? Will the paper be interesting to the readership of the journal?
Help maintain the integrity of peer review
Any manuscripts you see as a reviewer should be regarded as privileged, confidential documents. If you have any concerns about the ethical practices of a paper, flag these up to the editor. You might also find the COPE guidelines on best practice in scholarly publishing useful background reading.
Be comfortable saying “no”
It won’t be possible for you to accept every invitation to referee. If you don’t have adequate time to commit to the review, you have a conflict of interest (positive or negative), or you simply don’t feel comfortable with the topic (the abstract should help you decide), you should decline the invitation promptly.
If the author has done a great job, be sure to let them know in your comments! Likewise, be constructive and fair in your criticism.