The peer review process

The process of peer review is vital to academic research because it means that articles published in academic journals are of the highest possible quality, validity, and relevance. Journals rely on the dedication and support of reviewers to make sure articles are suitable for publication.

In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about peer review and your role in it, including the peer review process steps and the different types of peer review.

What is peer review and why is it so important?

Peer review is the independent assessment of a research paper by experts in the field. Its purpose is to evaluate a manuscript’s quality and suitability for publication.

Even for very specialist journals, the editor can’t be an expert on the topic of every article submitted. So, the comments of carefully selected reviewers – like you – are an essential guide for the editor’s decision on a manuscript.

Clarivate analytics – Publons’ 2018 Global Reviewer Survey found that 98% of respondents consider peer review either important (31.2%) or extremely important (66.8%) for ensuring the general quality and integrity of scholarly communication.

Peer review is also a very useful source of feedback for authors, allowing them to receive constructive support to advance their work. A 2015 Taylor & Francis study found that most researchers, across all subject areas, rated the contribution of peer review towards improving their article as 8 or above out of 10.

You can learn more about why you should become a peer reviewer, how to become a reviewer, and the training resources available to support you.

Steps in the peer review process

While there are lots of different types of peer review, typically, the peer review process follows the steps outlined below.

Author submits article

The corresponding or submitting author submits the paper to the journal. This is usually via an online system, although some journals may accept submissions by email.

Editorial assessment

The journal checks the paper against its instructions for authors to make sure it includes all the required sections and that it has been written in the format and style needed.

The editor(s) then check that the paper fits with the journal’s aims and scope and is sufficiently original and interesting to the journal’s audience. If not, the paper may be rejected without being reviewed any further.

Some journals may also carry out further checks on reporting and reproducibility at this stage.

Invitation to reviewers

At this stage, invitations are sent to individuals identified as appropriate reviewers for the paper with the option to accept or decline. The journal will find a minimum of two independent reviewers.

When an invitation is received, it is the responsibility as the reviewer to know and follow the ethical guidelines for peer review. After the invitation is accepted, the paper will be sent to the reviewer for assessment.

If you are unable to review, but you think a colleague might be interested, you must not forward the invitation to them as this impacts the confidentiality for the author(s). Instead, recommend your colleague to the editor so that they can be invited.

Review is conducted

Reviewers usually set time aside to read the paper several times to build a detailed point-by-point review. The review is then submitted to the journal, with a recommendation to accept or reject the paper – or with a request for revision.

Revisions can either be flagged as major or minor, depending on how much work is requested to be done on the manuscript. Please take a look at our step-by-step guide on how to write a peer review report.

Journal assesses the reviews

The editor considers all the returned reviews before making an overall decision. If the reviews differ widely, the editor may invite an additional reviewer to give an extra opinion before deciding.

The decision is communicated

The editor sends a decision to the author(s) to either: accept, reject, or request revisions. Usually, this will be accompanied by the reviewer reports – and further editorial guidance, if revisions are being requested.

At this point, reviewers should also be told the outcome of their review. If the paper was sent back for revision, the reviewers should expect to receive a new version, unless they have opted out of further participation. However, where only minor changes were requested, follow-up review might be done by the editor.

What happens next?

Once an article has been through peer review and any rounds of revisions, a final decision to publish or reject the paper will be made. Here are three possible outcomes to expect:

  • Article production
    If the decision is to publish the paper, it will go into production and eventually appear on the journal’s website.

  • Article transfer
    A rejection may not necessarily mean the paper isn’t eventually published. Taylor & Francis offer a transfer or cascade service to some authors when their paper is rejected. This process is designed for papers that are valid and good quality but aren’t suitable for the journal they were originally submitted to.

    If an article falls into this category, then one or more alternative journals from the same publisher will be suggested. Authors will have the option to either submit to one of those suggested journals for review or withdraw their article. And if they choose to submit, they’ll be able to revise the manuscript first.

    Find out more about article transfers, including FAQs about article transfer process.

  • Article rejection
    When an article is rejected, the author will receive the reviewer reports to help them develop their work further. Therefore, it’s important to read our guidelines for reviewers to make sure the authors get the most helpful feedback possible from your reviewer report.

Different forms of peer review

Peer review takes various different forms and so your experience as a peer reviewer will vary depending on what types of peer review the journal you’re reviewing uses. You can find out more about all the different types of peer review used at Taylor & Francis journals below:

  • Single-anonymous peer review: In single-anonymous peer review, you – as the reviewer – will know who the author of the article is, but the authors will not know the identity of the reviewers. The reviewer remains anonymous if the article is published.

    You can read more on single-anonymous peer review.

  • Double-anonymous peer review: In a double-anonymous peer review, the reviewers don’t know who the author(s) of the article is. The author(s) also doesn’t know who the reviewers are either. The reviewer remains anonymous if the article is published.

    You can learn more about double-anonymous peer review.

  • Open peer review: There are lots of different types of open peer review but typically, it means the reviewers know who the authors of the article are, and the authors will learn who the reviewers are at some point during the review or publication process. The reviewer’s name may also be disclosed alongside the article if it is published, depending on the journal policy.

    For more information, please read about open peer review.

  • Post-publication peer review: As with open peer review, this can take a few different forms. But usually, an article is published with fewer checks, then reviewers or even readers can add their own comments or reviews.

    Find out more about post-publication peer review.

  • Registered Reports: This process splits the peer review of a piece of research into two parts. First, the design of the study before the research is conducted, and second the paper containing the results of that work.

    Here’s an opportunity to learn more about Registered Reports.

  • Peer review with F1000Research: F1000Research, which is part of the Taylor & Francis Group, operates an innovative peer review process that is fully transparent and takes place after an article has been published.

    For more information, find out how the F1000Research model works.

I still have questions

Please read our extensive frequently asked questions for answers to common questions on reviewing a manuscript.

FAQs before review

FAQs during review

FAQs after submitting your report

Further resources

A lot of your skills as a peer reviewer will be developed ‘on the job’. But there are also training resources available to support you.

Reviewer training

How to become a peer reviewer

Peer review and your career