How To Write an Article Review of Academic & Scientific Papers
Among the productive ways in which to use your expertise as a researcher and author in your area of specialisation is to write peer reviews of academic or scientific manuscripts submitted to journal proofreaders for publication. Peer reviewing can be immensely rewarding in both professional and personal ways, but it is also demanding and time-consuming work that will only prove beneficial if you know how to write an article review that successfully serves the needs of authors, proofreaders and readers alike. The tips gathered here offer valuable advice on how to write an article review that will do just that.
The primary question to ask yourself when considering an offer to do a peer review is whether you possess the knowledge and training necessary to evaluate and comment on the research and paper in informative and helpful ways. If not, do everyone a favour by declining the offer and perhaps recommending a more appropriate reviewer. The second question is whether you have enough time available to complete a thorough and professional review before the deadline set by the editor. Research material is usually time sensitive, authors are eager to be published and journal proofreaders tend to spend too much of their valuable time ‘reminding’ peer reviewers of overdue review reports. If you will not have enough time to do a careful review, preparing a hasty or dismissive review is not a sound approach to how to write an article review. Leave the task to someone who does have the time. Assuming, on the other hand, that you have both the expertise and the time to review the manuscript, inform the editor of your willingness as soon as possible and then do everything you can to meet the deadline.
Critical reading of the manuscript is the first stage in how to write an article review. The paper should ideally be read with extreme care and more than once, leaving time for reflection between readings. Recording your responses and ideas for corrections and improvements as you read will provide the raw material for how to write an article review that will help the editor make informed decisions about revisions and publication. Many journals now offer practical advice on how to write an article review, so this information should be consulted for instructions about the aspects of submitted manuscripts that should receive special attention from peer reviewers. Most advice on how to write an article review sees the peer reviewer as an expert in the field who is able and willing to assess the author’s use of existing scholarship, application of research methods, analysis and interpretation of findings, and explanation of limitations and implications. Complete objectivity may be elusive when reviewing research similar to your own work, but as objective a perspective as possible is strongly recommended to ensure that the author’s research methods, findings and conclusions are assessed on sound academic or scientific bases regardless of whether they support or contradict your own published research.
Although the guidance provided for peer reviewers by individual academic and scientific journals varies and should therefore always be considered carefully before determining exactly how to write an article review, a high-quality peer review report usually contains three kinds of information. The first is the reviewer’s general impression and overall assessment of the paper. Is the research sound? Is the manuscript a good fit for the journal? What are the key findings? Is the study interesting? Is the original contribution a major or a minor one? Is the manuscript well written and effectively organised to communicate clearly with readers? Such questions will help you determine how to write an article review that provides the sort of commentary the journal editor as well as the aspiring author requires.
The second kind of information consists of the specific concerns you have about the manuscript and your recommendations for correcting errors, resolving problems and improving any weak elements. Explanations should be detailed and clear, with obvious distinctions drawn between factual errors that must be corrected and matters of opinion that deserve consideration. Major issues should also be distinguished from minor ones, remembering, however, that even minor issues, such as spelling or punctuation errors, can become major quality issues if they are frequent and the cause of confusion. Careful organisation is always advisable when deciding how to write an article review, so working through the manuscript section by section from beginning to end and addressing each problem specifically and in detail can be an extremely effective means of offering constructive criticism and helpful suggestions for revisions.
The third and final kind of information is your recommendation regarding publication. Your assessment along with those of the other peer reviewers assigned to the manuscript will be used by the editor to make final decisions about publishing the manuscript or not. It is therefore best if your opinion is solidly based on your detailed evaluation of the article and expressed in a straightforward manner. This usually means recommending a manuscript for acceptance without the need for revision, for reconsideration or acceptance after appropriate revisions have been completed, or for simple rejection. Maintaining an open mind is always desirable, of course, but decisive clarity in the final analysis will prove a useful strategy for how to write an article review that will encourage a journal editor to send more work of this kind your way.
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If you are in the process of preparing an article for an academic or scientific journal, or planning one for the near future, you may well be interested in a new book, Guide to Journal Publication, which is available on our Tips and Advice on Publishing Research in Journals website.