How to become a peer reviewer

Peer review is an integral part of academic research, so becoming a peer reviewer means you’ll be making vital contributions to research progress. Not to mention, there are many benefits of peer review for you as well.

In this guide, we’ll explore why you should become a peer reviewer, who can be a reviewer, ways to get started in peer review, and the training and support that’s available for you through Taylor & Francis.

Who can be a peer reviewer?

The most important requirement for being a peer reviewer is being knowledgeable on the specific topic covered by the paper being reviewed. This means you don’t need years of experience to be a peer reviewer, just the right expertise and the ability to follow the guidelines for peer review.

Whether you’re at the start of your research career or an experienced researcher looking to take on more peer review in your field, we have training resources to help you hone your reviewing skills.

How to become a reviewer for a journal

If you’ve decided you want to become a peer reviewer, you need to find out how to go about it. Here are different ways to get started as a reviewer:

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 for it? Ask whether they would be willing to pass on your details to the editor.

They may also have some useful experience they can share with you 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 in reviewing, whether you could work with them on a review. Some journals also run mentoring schemes, designed to help support first-time reviewers.

Get visible on researcher networking sites

Academic networking sites, such as ResearchGate or Academia, are opportunities to build a profile that editors looking for new reviewers can find. If your university department has a website, make sure you are visible here, too.

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. When you begin to build your publication record, consider registering on sites like ORCID, Clarivate Web of Knowledge, and Google Scholar, and regularly check your record in the literature databases used in your field to make sure it is correct and up to date.

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.

Take part in training

Our Excellence in Peer Review: Taylor & Francis Reviewer Training Network was launched in 2019 to support researchers in becoming more effective peer reviewers. This training network aims to give clear practical advice to researchers to improve the quality of the reviews they provide, as well as introduce the key principles to those who are newer to the review process.

Participants who have the expertise to become reviewers and who would like further experience have the opportunity to be linked with journals within their subject area at the end of the training.

For more ideas to get you started, Diana Marshall, former Head of Reviewer Programs at Taylor & Francis shared her five tips for becoming a peer reviewer.

Attend conferences

Giving presentations or participating on panels at conferences will help to raise your profile within your field and can bring you to the attention of journal editors.

Networking at conferences is also a great way to develop relationships with journal editors or editorial board members.

Tips to hone your reviewing skills

Even if you haven’t been invited to review an article yet, there are ways you can hone your reviewing skills in the meantime.

  • Review work for your peers before submission
    Peer reviewing papers written by colleagues is common practice among researchers and it’s a great way to practice. This will also help your colleagues to develop their manuscripts further by being an extra eye before they submit to the target journal.

  • Take part in post-publication peer review
    Platforms like PubMed and PubPeer allow users to comment on published manuscripts as part of a post-publication peer review (PPPR) initiative.

    This is a great way to hone your reviewing skills and see the kind of comments other peer reviewers have made on a manuscript.

  • Assist your supervisor
    Consider asking your supervisor if you can assist with peer reviews that they are currently writing. Please note that you would need the journal editor’s consent for this to happen, but it’s not uncommon.

    Assisting with reviews can be a useful way of getting feedback from a trusted source on your own reviewing skills.

  • Join (or start) a journal club
    See if you can find or form a group at your university or institution to get practice evaluating research with your peers. While these groups can run in a number of different ways, an example is choosing a paper for the whole group to go away and review individually.

    You can then compare and critique each other’s reviews, allowing you to develop your skills and learn from one another.

Benefits researchers enjoy by working as a peer reviewer

It’s undeniable that researchers have a lot on their plates. But becoming a peer reviewer can be worth the extra effort. So here is why you should become a peer reviewer:

  1. Improve your own writing
    Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of other researchers’ articles can help you understand how you need to improve your own work.

  2. Boost your career
    While a lot of reviewing is anonymous, there are lots of schemes set up to recognize your contribution as a reviewer. Find out more about our own reviewer recognition program and learn more about peer review and your career.

  3. Keep up with the latest research
    As a reviewer you’ll be reading papers before they’ve even been published, giving you an early preview of the very latest research in your field.

  4. Become part of a journal’s community
    Reviewing articles for a journal will help you build your network within the field, putting you in direct contact with editors. It could also be a first step on the road to joining a journal’s editorial board.

  5. Maintaining the integrity of scientific literature
    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.

    As a reviewer, you’re ensuring that other researchers, as well as wider society, can trust the research published in journals.

For a deeper dive into how peer review can benefit you, please read, Why become a peer reviewer? 5 good reasons to get started.

Build your confidence with training and support

Whether you’re an old hand at peer reviewing but want to update your skills, or you are completely new to the process, our training and mentoring resources are available to help you.