Peer Review Mechanism

Many of us have often come across the terms “peer review”, “peer-reviewed journal” or “peer-reviewed paper” at some or the other point of time. But, how many of us know what exactly the term “peer review” refers to or what the “peer review process” is all about? Let us discuss this key aspect of the research process.

According to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), peer review is the critical assessment of manuscripts submitted to journals by experts who are not part of the editorial staff. Peer review, which is also known as refereeing, has become an inevitable part of the quality control process, which determines whether a paper is worth publishing/funding or not.

The origin of peer review often dates back to 18th century Britain. However, it became a key part of the research process only in the second half of the 20th century, triggered by the growth of scholarly research. As the reviewers are specialized in the same field as the author, they are considered to be the author’s peers; hence, it was coined as “peer review”.

Peer Review Process

The author submits the paper to the respective journal. The Journal Editor forwards that paper to experts (reviewers) in the relevant field. These reviewers thoroughly analyze the quality of the paper, validity of the data and methods used, and the accuracy of the results. They provide their judgment on the paper whether: there is scope for improvement, it is ok as it is, or it is not worth publishing. If there are changes to be made in the paper, the reviewers list in their comments the particular areas that have scope for improvement. Then the paper is returned to the Journal Editor who sends it to the author with the appropriate decision: accepted as it is; accepted with revisions; or rejected. Accordingly, the author makes the changes and resubmits to the same journal, or resubmits to another journal.

Types of Peer Review

Peer review can be classified into three types based on the levels of transparency:

Single-blind review: In this case, the author’s identity is known to the reviewers, but not vice versa.

Double-blind review: In this case, the identities of the author and reviewers are hidden from each other.

Open peer review: Here, the author’s and reviewers’ identities are known to each other.

At present, the peer review process is implemented by a majority of scientific journals. It helps to prevent falsified work from being published. Its importance has become such that, most research are not considered to be serious stuff unless they have been validated by peer review. A peer-reviewed paper that is accepted for publication is looked upon as a work of quality. But, this process has its own disadvantages. It is an extremely time-consuming process. The long wait can be extremely frustrating for the researcher and can even jeopardize his academic progress. Moreover, sometimes the element of bias creeps into the peer review process. The reviewers’ judgment might be influenced by their own perception of things, the identity of the author, and at times, even the country of origin of the author.

Factors of Audience Analysis

Psychographics

Psychographics refers to the lifestyle, values, leisure activities and social self-image that the readers are likely to have. Marketing research shows that people react favorably towards products and services that they see as representative of themselves. Similarly, your readers will respond differently to your message according to their values. What are their interests, opinions and hobbies’? In the rapidly changing and diversifying contemporary world, interests and values are less and less tied to demographic issues. For example, when computer games first started to develop, they were associated with a target market of young males in the 15 to 25 age group. As this form of entertainment evolved, the target market changed, and there are now computer games that attract females, older males, and other demographic groups. An analysis of the computer game market, therefore, is more likely to benefit from a psychographic examination that would see the computer game market as a special interest group, rather than a demographic.

Demographic and psychographic analysis are especially relevant in journalistic and public relations writing, where you address a wider public.

Audience Analysis

Every act of writing takes place in a new context, with a unique time, place or reader to take into account. Audience adaptation refers to the skill of arranging words, organizing your thoughts, and formatting your document to best achieve your desired effect on your target audience. Audience dynamics refers to the relationship that writers form with their readers through their style, and through the amount and structure of information they provide. The audience dynamics are effective when the readers get a sense of satisfaction that the questions raised in the text were relevant to their interests and the answers or solutions provided were convincing. In contrast, audience dynamics are ineffective when the readers feel frustrated or offended because the writer’s tone is condescending, the answers or solutions provided are simplistic in relation to the complexity of the questions, or the argument is emotive and based on generalization. To maximise your ability to achieve effective audience dynamics, assess the readers’ needs, knowledge and interest by conducting an audience analysis before writing. Audience analysis is an integral part of your research.