What Do Journal Editors Want from Peer Reviewers? | Tips on How to Get Your Research Published
On one level, the answer to this question is a simple one. The editors of scholarly journals want peer reviewers who send them excellent review reports every time on time. Most reviewers would love to comply, but doing so can be rather challenging, and all the more so if it is not clear exactly what editors want from them. Many journals offer specific advice for their peer reviewers, so the editor may send some sort of guidance when he or she invites you to review a paper, but if not, look for it and ask if you cannot find it. The following list outlines some important aspects of the kind of work and attitude journal editors are generally seeking in their peer reviewers, but it should be used alongside any specific reviewing instructions you need to follow.
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• An effective reviewer is aware of the importance of efficiency. He or she responds to the editor’s invitation immediately and, if the offer is accepted, completes the review by the deadline established by the editor. If the offer cannot be accepted, editors usually appreciate suggestions for alternate reviewers.
• A high-quality review takes a good deal of time and thought, and editors do not want reviews that are dashed off too quickly. They want their reviewers to consider the research and its presentation carefully and at some length to determine whether a paper is interesting, significant and worthy of publication.
• Editors love reviewers who write well-organised review reports that demonstrate an understanding of the material, share a sophisticated opinion of the research, present detailed comments on strengths and weaknesses, explain their reasoning, offer feasible suggestions for improvements and provide a clear recommendation regarding acceptance, rejection and necessary revisions.
• Editors expect a professional approach from their peer reviewers. This has many aspects, but it is especially important that you recognise and treat the documents you have been sent and the review you are writing as confidential. It is also essential to achieve and maintain objectivity in assessing the validity of an author’s research, findings, interpretations and conclusions, no matter how the work may relate to your own research.
• Reviewers who learn as much about the journal, its scope, its aims, its peer review policies and practices, and its author guidelines are particularly pleasing to editors. Only if you know what sort of work the journal publishes can you write the kind of peer review that will help the editor determine the paper’s suitability, so do your homework.
• To please editors and be a good reviewer, you must not take advantage of the peer review process. A review report is no place for self-promotion along the lines of forcing an author to cite your publications or for grinding the axe blades of prejudices or disagreements with the paper’s author. A good reviewer is, however, willing and able to challenge procedures, findings and ideas in valid ways when necessary.
• Successful reviewers adopt a positive attitude and retain it even when reviewing a low-quality paper. They are honest, supportive, constructive, specific and courteous in their comments, providing information to help editors make appropriate decisions and authors improve their research and writing.
• Understanding the critical role you play in the peer review process will enable you to act as an effective team member with whom editors will want to work. By so being, you will be invaluable to both the author and the editor and also contribute to the improvement of research and the advancement of knowledge in your field.
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