POINTS TO NOTE:
(a) As an ideal reviewer, you are expected to be fair, unbiased, speedy, and confidential.
(b) Please approach the paper in terms of questions such as: "Is the science good?" and "Is it understandable?" or "What is needed to make it clear?" rather than "What are all the little things that annoy me in style or presentation?"
(c) As a reviewer, you are expected to decline from reviewing papers of any author(s) with whom there is a possibility or appearance of a conflict of interest. If your answer is yes to any of the questions below, do not proceed with the review:
• Have you had significant and acrimonious disagreements with the authors in the past?
• Are the authors and you co-investigators on a current research project?
• Have the authors and you jointly published an article in the past 5 years?
• Are you close personal friends with one or more of the authors?
• Are you working in such a similar area of research as the authors that you might be considered to be a competitor or gain an advantage by reviewing the manuscript?
• Did you review the manuscript as a peer reviewer prior to its submission to the journal?
(d) Reviewers must attempt to be impartial when evaluating a manuscript. Although it is difficult to be completely objective when assessing a paper that may not coincide with one's own beliefs or values, nevertheless, a reviewer must always strive for that goal. If a reviewer cannot separate the evaluation process from a desire to advocate a preferred theory or to reject the manuscript out-of-hand on philosophical grounds, then the reviewer should disqualify himself or herself from that review.
(e) Do not allow the manuscript to be reproduced while in your custody. You must not use the manuscript for your personal advantage in any way. You cannot cite it or use its contents in any way until/unless it is published. If it is not published but you wish to use it, you need to contact the author (e.g. via the editor if the journal uses double-blind reviewing).
(f) Do not allow your reviews to be influenced by the origins of a manuscript, by the nationality, religious or political beliefs, gender or other characteristics of the authors, or by commercial consideration.
Abstracts accompany articles in most journals, and they are often republished as printed in secondary abstracting services and journals. The abstract, therefore, should meet two requirements. A reader should be able to tell readily the value of the article and whether or not to read it completely. It also should provide the literature searcher with enough information to assess its value and to index it for later retrieval.
An abstract should:
• Strive for an impersonal, non-critical, and informative account.
• Give a clear, grammatically accurate, exact, and stylistically uniform treatment of the subject.
• Provide rationale or justification for the study. The statement should give a brief account of the purpose, need, and significance of the investigation (hypothesis or how the present work differs from previous work).
• State the objectives clearly as to what is to be obtained.
• Give a brief account of the methods, emphasizing departures from the customary. Be specific.
• State key results succinctly.
• Outline conclusions or recommendations. An emphasis of the significance of the work, conclusions, and recommendations. This may include new theories, interpretations, evaluations, or applications.
• Be quantitative and avoid the use of general terms, especially in presenting the method and reporting the results. For example, if two rates of a treatment are used, state what they are.
• Never cite references.
• Contain about 200 to 250 words.
3. Manuscript General Content
• Does the title of the paper clearly reflect its contents, and is the title sufficiently succinct? Is an abstract present?
• Is it consistent with the length used by this journal?
• Is the content of the manuscript worthwhile?
• If not to you, is there a segment of the journal's readership that would find it worthwhile?
• Do you feel that the author(s) reviewed the existing literature adequately?
• Do you know of any references that authors might want to refer to and discuss?
• Are references listed according to the journal’s formatting style?
• Are all references cited listed in the reference list and vice versa?
• Does the formatting of headings, tables and figures correspond to journal style?
• Are the conclusions supported by the data presented?
• Are there alternative explanations for the findings presented? Should the manuscript be shortened?
• Is it well organised?
Across all the review rounds, reviewers should strive to distinguish between what is perceived as correctable versus uncorrectable problems and between major versus minor concerns. The first round of reviews is the time for reviewers to highlight uncorrectable problems or other major concerns about a paper. It is generally inappropriate to raise them in later review rounds if they already existed in the first draft submitted. In most cases, new uncorrectable problems or new major concerns raised in later reviews should only apply to changes in a paper that have emerged through the authors' revision work.
4. Quality of Writing
• Clarity is vitally important. Whether or not you are an expert in the subject discussed, you should understand the paper's content. Read each paragraph carefully. Is there likely to be confusion? If so, request that the author clarify. If you have some suggested revisions, these are usually appreciated by authors, but please don't feel obliged to rewrite the manuscript.
• Do the paragraphs flow smoothly? Is the manuscript readable? Can you make suggestions for improvement? (Suggest using active voice.)
• Is there unnecessary repetition? Can you suggest deletion of sentences or phrases or words that add little to the paper?
• Are enough examples provided to assist readers in relating to the author' s ideas? Can you suggest some examples that the author might want to include in his or her revision?
• What parts of the manuscript do you really like? Let the author(s) know.
• Is the paper technically accurate in terms of methods, procedures, replications, statistics, and so forth?
6. Tables and Figures
• Are all the tables and figures really necessary? If so, are they understandable? If not, could you suggest another format? Would you suggest additional tables or figures?
• Are figures (or photographs) of good enough quality for reproduction in the journal? Are the numbering and lettering large enough to be readable when reduced?
• Are the figure and table captions clear?
7. Remember ...
• Reviewers should not attempt to rewrite a poorly written manuscript.
• Reviewers will remain anonymous.
• Prompt attention to manuscripts will be appreciated both by the authors and by the Editors.
8. What you provide to the editor
8.1 A brief letter addressed to the editor (not for the author’s eyes) with a specific recommendation. Different journals have slight variations in the list of possible recommendations. They are likely to be similar to the following options:
a. Accept unconditionally. This rarely used category should be reserved for manuscripts that are virtually flawless in their content. In general, when a reviewer makes this recommendation, he or she will be regarded as having signed off on the manuscript.
b. Accept conditionally, subject to minor revisions, according to accompanying comments. This recommendation should be made when the manuscript is judged to be quite strong and in need of only minor additions, deletions, or corrections. It does not need to be reviewed again, in your view. The editor can judge whether revisions have been made adequately.
c. Encourage revision, according to accompanying comments. This recommendation should be used for manuscripts that have a high degree of potential for eventual publication, in addition to significant deficiencies that must be corrected. For instance, the research addresses a vital topic, but is not presented in a logical or lucid fashion, or questions may exist about some aspects of its method. This recommendation should be used when the reviewer believes that satisfactory resolution to his or her concerns is possible and that the achievement of successful resolution will result in an acceptable manuscript. Detailed Comments to the Authors are extremely important in support of this recommendation, so that the authors can conceivably answer all the concerns in a single revision. (A recommendation in this category should not be construed as a guarantee of eventual publication. In some cases, a seemingly promising manuscript will not be adequately revised to attain the quality and level of knowledge contribution required for publication.)
d. Reject in current form, but allow resubmission of a substantially different version. The essential difference between this recommendation (reject in current form) and the option above (encourage revision) is that the current version of the manuscript is not publishable in anything approximating its present form. Instead of simply rejecting a manuscript as completely unsalvageable, this recommendation includes thoughtful advice for producing a potentially publishable, but different manuscript. This recommendation should be used sparingly. Some journals do not include it as an option. For these, you would probably switch to the next option.
e. Reject unconditionally, because the likelihood of successful revision is remote. This recommendation is appropriate for papers that have major problems. It is viewed as having virtually no chance of ever reaching a publishable standard, at least for this journal. For example, the topic may be of minor importance; the basic conceptual development may be extremely weak or incorrect; or the empirical work may have uncorrectable defects. This category is the most common recommendation received by high prestige journals. Comments to the Authors should be especially polite in explaining the nature of the concerns, but the Comments to the Authors need not be as lengthy as in the previous categories. It is permissible and efficient to articulate only the most serious concerns, and to conserve reviewing energy for other manuscripts that stand to gain from more detailed reviewer input.
Briefly indicate your reasons for the decision in the letter to the editor. You might address issues such as the significance of the contribution, quality and thoroughness of the analysis, clarity of presentation, practical importance, originality, depth and appropriateness for the Journal.
In some cases, a reviewer may be competent to evaluate either the conceptual or methodological aspects of a paper, but not both. In such instances, the reviewer should indicate this in the cover letter to the Editor.
8.2 Separate comments to the author
• Please ensure that comments are detailed and clear and that they are constructive in nature, even if you are recommending that the paper be rejected. Make suggestions about length, organization, tables, figures and references. Number all comments, to make it easy for the author to refer to them in correspondence with the editor.
• A quality review should note the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the manuscript. Authors need to know what they have done well and not just what they have done poorly.
• The reviewer should avoid language that can be easily misconstrued or that appears condescending, including obscure or loaded vocabulary as well as humour, irony, and sarcasm. When the reviewer negatively evaluates different aspects of a paper, he or she should keep in mind that there are many ways to communicate this to the authors. For example, phrases such as "fatal flaws" or "serious mistakes" might instead be offered as "substantial concerns" or "major issues." Reviewers should be as polite and as diplomatic as they are demanding.
• If the reviewer has ideas on how to improve the paper and the research, sharing those suggestions in the most precise manner possible will raise the likelihood that the authors will understand, appreciate, and utilize those ideas.
• Specificity. A quality evaluation must be communicated in sufficient detail to support the reviewer's recommendation to the Editor. For instance, when alluding to previous research to uphold an assertion about some conceptual, methodological, or substantive weakness, it is imperative to provide a complete citation so the Editor and authors can locate it.
• The Comments to the Authors represent the most important component of the review. They provide the rationale for the reviewer's evaluation of the manuscript, as well as suggestions for the improvement of the paper.
• The Comments to the Authors should also not contain any semblance of a recommended rejection or acceptance of the manuscript. Such recommendations should be made only in the confidential Summary Letter to the Editor. It is the Editor's responsibility to make the final decision and also to decide on the best way to communicate that decision to the authors.
• Comments to the Authors are generally most useful to the authors and the Editor when they begin with an overall assessment of the reviewer's reaction to the manuscript, including prominent strengths and weaknesses. This big picture is valuable in providing a context for the more detailed comments that follow. The summary is especially important in identifying the reviewer's major concerns. After the overall assessment, the detailed comments are then provided that tactfully justify the evaluation and offer constructive, specific guidance for a revision or for future research efforts. It can be useful to provide the most important of the specific comments before any minor comments on matters of detail.
Please highlight the manuscript with yellow, blue and red colours.
Parts highlighted in yellow are corrections made. Words in blue may be deleted. Words in red may be accepted.
We sincerely thank and acknowledge the use of copyright material from the citation below:
Pannell, D.J. (2006). How to review a journal article: requirements, tips and strategies, Discussion Paper, School of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Western Australia, http://dpannell.fnas.uwa.edu.au/reviews.htm