How predefined keywords can help you find new reviewers

Tips from our expert on peer review systems

An easy way to find peer reviewers for your journal is to use predefined keywords and/or classifications.

Journals often give authors the freedom to submit their own keywords. What this means is they can define their areas of expertise. Journal editorial teams can then use this info to find suitable reviewers for a manuscript.

The editor can search using the journal’s database. Or use specially designed software, facilitated by PubMed, to look even further.

The benefits of predefined keywords

Keywords are a useful way to source reviewers. And as well as asking the author to submit keywords, you can also use predefined lists of keywords.

A list of predefined keywords or classifications is useful when editors have difficulty finding reviewers based on the keywords given by the author.

How can I apply this on my journal?

There are two things you should consider when using a predefined list of keywords on your journal:

Ensure the list of keywords is as wide as possible

This may seem odd as you’re trying to streamline the way you source reviewers. But if you have a short list of predefined terms, there’s a risk authors will pick keywords not directly relevant to their research.

Decide if this should be a compulsory field during submission

Some journals choose to make this compulsory. This approach to finding reviewers uses two sources of info rather than one.

But if it’s a required field, there’s a risk authors will select the term closest to their area of expertise. The problem is that this isn’t always relevant.

There isn’t a right or wrong way of picking keywords. It depends on your journal’s set up. Below are two case studies of journals that use different forms of keywords and classifications.

Case study one: A multi-disciplinary journal

This journal operates on the basis that authors can select their keywords from a long list. They can choose to complement these from a predefined list. Or just pick keywords from the predefined list.

As the journal is multi-disciplinary, this works well. The journal attracts a wide range of submissions that look at different topics. By taking this approach, the editorial team gain a lot of information to help them find appropriate reviewers.

A screenshot to explain how pre-defined keywords works for multidisciplinary journals

Case study two: A journal with a high volume of submissions

This journal uses a broad, industry-recognized list of classifications. It’s been successful because the journal receives a high number of submissions.

The journal isn’t multi-disciplinary, but it covers a broad subject area. Having an extensive subject list helps the editor to streamline the reviewer invite process.

a screenshot to show how pre-defined keywords work for a journal with high volume of submissions