There is no single correct way to conduct a peer review of a writer’s manuscript or submission to a journal. Every publication will have its own guidelines and standards. However, if you are brand new to reviewing a peer’s work here are some factors to consider:
Organization and structure
- Does the work have a clearly articulated title?
- Is the work organized and structured in a logical manner?
- Does the manuscript contain explicit headings, making it easier for you to read?
- Does the introduction articulate the point of the paper?
- Does the introduction contain key words and phrases to help readers find the paper once it is in circulation?
- Does the introduction clearly establish the value of the paper?
The problem / context / research question
- Does the writer provide a clearly articulated research question or problem?
- Is this problem situated in a historical, geographical and professional context?
- Is this question original? If this sounds like something that has been studied to death, then it is unlikely to be original. Journal articles are meant to contribute new knowledge, fresh perspectives to the ongoing dialogue in the field.
Significance of the work
- What rationale does the writer provide for his or her work?
- Does the writer link their manuscript to the particular journal he or she has chosen? Many writers submit manuscripts without targeting them to a particular journal or relating their manuscript to the theme or purpose of the journal. Reviewers regularly reject such articles.
- Why should we, as readers and professionals, care about this manuscript?
Discussion and argument
- Does the author define and develop a cogent argument?
- Is the argument logical?
- Does the argument influence and persuade you as a reader?
- How sophisticated is this argument?
- Has the author provided clear and succinct conclusions?
- Are the conclusions logically linked to the introduction and the argument?
- Has the author restated the relevance of this research, in terms of already-published literature in the field?
- Does the conclusion highlight the significance of the author’s manuscript in the larger research and professional context?
- Has the writer provided directions for future research or recommendations for professional practice?
- Are all the references mentioned in the body of the paper cited properly in the References section at the end of the paper? (Manuscripts with missing references are almost always automatically rejected by journals.)
- Do the references at the end of the paper meet style guide standards, such as APA or Chicago style? (Sloppy references are also cause for rejection.)
Is this a manuscript you think is worthy of publication? Why or why not? What changes would strengthen it in order to make it suitable for publication? Provide recommendations for revision.
Your mission is to objectively examine the work as a professional and scholarly critic. This is not an exhaustive list of criteria to consider, by any means. It is a list to give the novice manuscript reviewer a place to start.
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