Peer review, also known as refereeing, is a collaborative process that allows independent experts in the same field of research to evaluate and comment on manuscript submissions. The outcome of a peer review gives authors feedback to improve their work and, critically, allows the editor to assess the paper’s suitability for publication.
The peer review process may adopt one of the following forms:
Single- and double-blind review are the most common methods of peer review.
This process upholds the integrity of scholarly communication. It ensures that published research is accurate, trustworthy, and meets the highest standards. Every journal depends on the hard work of reviewers who test and refine each article before publication.
Peer reviewing is a form of collaboration between experts. Their critical feedback often improves research and helps propel it forward.
But how does being a reviewer help your career? Here are some ways that you can benefit:
Keep up with the latest research
As a reviewer, you get an early view of the exciting new research happening in your field. Not only that, peer review gives you a role in helping to evaluate and improve this new work.
Improve your own writing
Reviewing articles written by other researchers can give you insight into how to improve your own. The process of reviewing encourages you to think critically about what makes an article good (or not so good). As you review more papers, you’ll start to spot common mistakes. This could relate to writing style, presentation, or the clarity of explanations. You can then use this knowledge in your own writing and improve your chances of publication.
Boost your career
While a lot of reviewing is anonymous, there are schemes to recognize the important contribution of reviewers. These include reviewer lists in journals, reviewer certificates, and Publons. You can also include your reviewing work on your resume. Your work as a reviewer will interest appointment or promotion committees looking for evidence of service to the profession.
Become part of a journal’s community
Many journals are the center of a network of researchers who discuss key themes and developments in the field. Becoming a reviewer is a great way to get involved with that group. This gives you the opportunity to build new connections for future collaborations. Being a regular reviewer may also be the first step to becoming a member of the journal’s editorial board.
Contact the editor
Journal editors are always looking out for new reviewers, especially those with expertise in areas under-represented in the journal’s pool of contacts. If there’s a journal that you read regularly, email the editor directly. Tell them about your areas of expertise, your publication record, and your interest in reviewing. If you attend any academic conferences, these are good opportunities to meet editors who might be looking for new reviewers.
Ask a senior colleague to recommend you
Is there someone who knows your work and is already involved with a journal, or regularly reviews? Ask whether they would be willing to pass on your details to the editor. They may also have some useful experience from when they first became a reviewer.
Look out for calls for reviewers
Some journals make specific invitations for reviewers to get in touch. This might be the case if the journal is new or expanding its scope into a different area.
Register with the journal’s publisher
Some publishers invite aspiring reviewers to add their details to a reviewer database. For example, Dove Press has a reviewer registration page. Here, you can enter your research specialisms and select the journals you’d be interested in reviewing for.
Find a mentor
Ask a senior colleague, with experience of reviewing, whether you could work with them on a review. Some journals also run mentoring schemes, designed to help support first-time reviewers.
Be visible on researcher networking sites
Academic networking sites, such as ResearchGate or Academia.edu, are opportunities to build a profile that editors looking for new reviewers can find. Make sure that your profile includes lots of detail about your current areas of research. You should also add links to any published journal articles or books.
Write a paper
Many journals add authors who have published with them to their database of reviewers. While you’re unlikely to write a paper just for the opportunity to review, submitting a research paper or book review is a good way to become part of the community around that journal. It also means the editor is more likely to invite you to review when they receive a submission on a related topic to your own.
Peer review involves the following steps:
Before agreeing to review for a journal, consider the following:
Visit the journal homepage (on Taylor & Francis Online) to get a sense of the journal’s content and house style. This will help you decide whether the paper you’re reviewing is suitable for the journal or not.
Refer to the Instructions for Authors to check if the paper meets the submission criteria of the journal (e.g. length, scope, and presentation).
The two main factors you should provide advice on are:
Here are some questions to consider when reading the manuscript:
Is the submission in Standard English to aid the understanding of the reader? For non-native speakers, the Taylor & Francis Editing Services may be useful.
Being critical whilst remaining sensitive to the author isn’t always easy. Comments should be carefully worded so the author understands what actions they need to take to improve their paper. Avoid generalized or vague statements as well as any negative comments which aren’t relevant or constructive.
Please note that these are just examples of how you might provide feedback on an author’s work. You should, of course, always tailor your review to the paper in question and the specific requirements of the journal and the editor.
Once you’ve read the paper and have assessed its quality, you need to make a recommendation to the editor about publication. The specific decision types used by a journal will vary, but the key decisions are:
When authors make revisions to their article, they’re asked to submit a list of changes and any comments for the reviewers. The revised version is usually returned to the original reviewer if possible. The reviewer is then asked to affirm whether the revisions are satisfactory.
All peer reviewers must follow these ethical guidelines for Taylor & Francis journal articles in review:
Taylor & Francis recommend that reviewers also adhere to the COPE Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers.