Peer review is a process that begins when an author wishes to submit a manuscript to a journal. The author sends several copies of his or her manuscript to the editor of the journal, who in turn sends these out to be read and commented upon by experts in the field, who are considered the author's peers. The comments of these experts help to determine whether the manuscript is accepted for publication.
Sometimes the author wishes to be reviewed anonymously, and so the manuscript is subjected to blind review. The reviewers too may choose to remain anonymous. The editor, of course, knows the identity of all parties.
The format of a peer review is as follows.
- First, the reviewer composes a brief summary of the paper. This summary indicates what the reviewer considers to be the paper's major points and take-home message.
- Second, the reviewer indicates the perceived strengths of the paper.
- Third, the reviewer notes any weaknesses or changes that need to be made before the paper is published.
- Fourth, the reviewer recommends the action to be taken on the manuscript. The possibilities are roughly as follows:
- accept with minor changes,
- revise and resubmit with major changes,
- reject because it is good work but wrong journal, and
- reject because it is not-so-good work.
- (For empirical studies, see this Peer Review Form.)
The final decision regarding publication is made by the editor. Usually, the recommendations of the majority of reviewers prevail. However, the editor also takes into account the specific reasons for the reviewers' recommendations. The editor writes a letter to the author stating the verdict on the manuscript and detailing the changes that need to be made, referring to the reviews, which are also sent. The author must take these recommendations into account in the revision, explicitly stating in a cover letter how they were addressed. If all goes well, the revised manuscript will be accepted by the editor within days of its receipt.
For purposes of this course, the above format for a peer review should be informed by the Rubric for Evaluting Papers, preferably addressing each point (topic, thesis, structure, evidence, logic and argumentation, and mechanics). Grades will not be assigned based on the peer reviews, but the peer reviews should help the author to improve the paper and will help to determine which papers are eventually accepted for publication.
Last modified November 2004
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