Writing a peer review for a journal publication is a very important job. Any journal referring to you for peer review requests your expertise to judge if a review article meets the academic standards for publication. However, peer review is not like evaluating a submission by a student under you. Every reviewer needs to balance the perspective of the author of the publication along with the requirements of the journal.
How to approach reviewing an article
- Start with first understanding the requirements of the journal. Most journals provide very specific instructions about the types of review articles they publish and what they expect from a reviewer. An academic journal for humanities might want narrative reviews based on the reviewer’s extensive knowledge and experience, whereas a scientific journal may prefer systematic reviews. It is best to discuss with the journal editor what exactly they are looking for from a reviewer.
- Read the review article with an open mind and several times. Do remember the job is not to draft the review article as you would write it. Rather, you have to understand and respect the author’s academic Even if you may disagree with some arguments of the author, it is the author’s right to publish his arguments as long as the author is giving proper academic arguments and evidence. Your job is to ensure the review article is academically sound for journal publication.
- While giving feedback to the author on the review article, remember that your ultimate goal is to discuss what the author needs to do in order to qualify for publication. The point is not to nitpick the manuscript but provide constructive and critical academic feedback that the author can use to improve their study for publication in the journal. Write the type of review you would like to receive if you were the author.
- Draft a template for your review. Start with a summary of the review article that reflects what you understand of the article. This is a good start as it helps sync your thoughts with the author, and also helps the journal Follow it up with a listing of minor or major issues with the review article. Major issues refer to gaps in arguments, academic critique or fundamental questions with the research methodology, etc. Minor issues are missing or misplaced references, technical clarifications, etc. a reviewer can also add some comments addressed to only the journal editor, about issues with language, presentation, any problems with why this review article does not match the journal objectives or any such matters which you want to convey to the journal.
A reviewer has a very critical and moral responsibility. It is also an interesting job as it allows one access to the most latest academic work even before it is published. An empathetic and constructive reviewer can help both a journal and an author enrich their academic credentials.