3 Things to Consider When Doing Peer Review

Consider these things, as well as access this free resource to help you provide great peer review.

Updated on September 7, 2017

a researcher peer reviewing a reserach paper

Researchers contribute to their field of work not only through making discoveries, but also by providing good peer review.

But what makes a good peer review? How do you know if you have provided a review that is going to help your fellow researchers, and how do you ensure that you do not breach any ethical concerns when giving a peer review?

We have put together some tips and resources to help answer these questions.

3 Things to Consider When Doing Peer Review

1. Elements of a good peer review

Be Thorough

Although there is no exact formula, a good peer review begins with dedicating the time it will take to go through the author's manuscript. Once you have set aside the appropriate amount of time, it is important to go through the paper and really consider what the author is trying to communicate. Having a checklist of sections and questions to consider as you go through the paper may speed this process up.

Be Thoughtful

Remembering that there is a person who will be reading your remarks is essential when aiming to craft a thoughtful reply. Being thoughtful may look like softening the language that you use in your suggestions. It may also be in the form of asking the hard questions that would be easier to leave alone altogether. Though thoughtfulness is not a requirement, it can go a long way in furthering the effectiveness of your review and the response from the author.

Be Timely

In research, it seems there is always something else to be done – another experiment to perform, another paper to write, another paper to review, and the list goes on. But as a reviewer, it is important to be mindful of the time frame in which the paper being reviewed is returned. It would be easy to set it aside until your schedule clears, but you will likely be more productive and may feel less stressed if you are intentional about getting it done.

2. Ethics of peer review

The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) provides ethical guidelines for peer reviewers. Their guidelines are recognized industry-wide and cover many scenarios that peer reviewers could encounter. They address topics pertaining to confidentiality, bias, and potential conflicts of interest. They outline expectations for reviewers before, during, and after the peer review process.

In addition to COPE's guidelines, you can find more information about ethics in our article, The Ethics of Peer Review.

3. New [free] resource for peer review training

When you start to build experience doing peer review , you may or may not have advisement from colleagues or from your PI, due to their busy schedules. In many cases, peer reviewers are having to learn as they go, rather than from the sage advice of journal editors and other reviewers.

It is because of this lack of opportunity and the inconsistencies that result from it that the American Chemical Society (ACS) has created ACS Reviewer Lab.

The ACS Reviewer Lab is a free educational program on peer review, consisting of six 30-minute modules. The information in the courses are relevant to researchers in any field, and they are free for anyone to take, not only researchers whose area of study is chemistry.

The six modules cover topics ranging from the ethics of peer review to analyzing the publication-readiness of a paper. The content for this program was created using feedback, information, and suggestions received directly from ACS's Editor-in-Chiefs.

After participants finish the program, they will receive a certificate of completion. This may also be useful when approaching journal editors to request the opportunity to do peer review.

To learn more about this resource, or to sign up, visit ACS's Reviewer Lab. Participants will need to create an ACS ID to participate, and an ID is free.

Author ResourcesPeer Review and PublicationPeer reviewTools And ResourcesPublication EthicsPublishing process
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