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Reviewing a journal article - Professor Jenny Rowley


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This session offers insights into the reviewing process associated with academic journals, which will help you in the roles of both reviewer and author. It will offer advice and reflection on when to accept an invitation to review, and on the benefits and practicalities of the process.

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Reviewing a journal article - Professor Jenny Rowley

  1. 1. Reviewing for Academic Journals Professor Jennifer Rowley Professor in information and communications
  2. 2. Purpose of this seminar  To encourage research students to get involved in peer reviewing should the opportunity arise  To offer research students insights into the peer review process, which will benefit them both as authors and reviewers.  To offer an opportunity for reflection on the details of the peer review process  To support research students to progress on their journey towards becoming effective peer reviewers.
  3. 3. Agenda  What is peer review of journal articles?  Why do you need to know about journal reviewing?  What should I take into account before I accept an invitation to review?  The stages in the peer review process  Reviewing guidelines and templates  Writing your review  Evaluating reviews - practice
  4. 4. What is Peer Review of Journal articles?  Peer review (otherwise known as refereeing) is the process that controls which articles are published in scholarly or academic journals.  Peer review is a collaborative process in which articles are submitted to a scholarly journal to be evaluated and commented upon by independent experts, who are researchers in the same research area.  Reviewers’ feedback:  Provides feedback to authors that helps them to improve their work (whether or not it is eventually published by the journal to which it has been submitted).  Provides information to the editor that supports their decision making regarding its publication in a journal
  5. 5. Why do you need to know about journal reviewing?  As an author:  Your paper may be reviewed – it is useful to understand how the process works  One of the most challenging aspects of getting published is often responding to reviewers  As a reviewer:  Reviewing builds your professional profile:  With the editorial team for the journal  By strengthening your CV  Giving you a sense of belonging to a research community and ‘giving back’  Reviewing helps you to be aware of what other authors are writing:  Keeping you up-to-date  Developing understanding of what is acceptable for publication
  6. 6. What should I take into account before I accept the invitation? 1  How will an invitation to review come your way?:  Your supervisor (or someone else who knows your research) might recommend you  If you have submitted an article to a journal (whether or not it is accepted), your details will be on the journal’s database.  The journal  Is the journal one that you are familiar with?  Would you like to build a relationship with this journal?  Does the journal have a good and established reputation in your field?  BEWARE new open access journals  If in doubt ask your supervisor
  7. 7. What should I take into account before I accept the invitation? 2  You  ‘I’m not an expert, I’m only a research student’  Research students are often at least as expert on their research topic as more experienced researchers  But, if the article is outside your expertise – decline the invitation  Generally, you will only be one of two, three or four reviewers  If you don’t understand something, there is a good chance that journal readers will have the same problem.  ‘Reviewing will take time that I should be using to conduct my own research/write-up my thesis’  Yes, it will – so think about this before your accept  Some editors ask for tight turnarounds (e.g. 2 weeks) – you don’t have to agree to these – decline or negotiate
  8. 8. Peer review processes  Confidentiality:  Peer review is a confidential process.  You should not discuss the manuscripts with others  Types of peer review  Double blind  The most common model  The reviewers don’t know who the author(s) is and the author(s) don’t know who the reviewers are.  Single blind  The reviewers know who the author(s) are, but the author(s) don’t know who the reviewers are
  9. 9. The stages in the peer review process •Acknowledgement to author(s) •Desk rejection (if appropriate) Submission •Reviewers chosen from journal database •Reviewers invited and sent copy of article and scorecardChoose reviewers •Letter of thanks to reviewer •Author sent reviews and notified of decision (reject, accept, minor or major revision) Reviews submitted •Author re-submits revised manuscript •Revised manuscript sent to reviewersRe-submission See also Peer review process model on handout
  10. 10. Reviewing guidelines and templates  Variable!  Manuscript submission systems (e.g. Scholarone):  Most journals and publishers operate with a manuscript submission system  This stores the manuscripts in their various versions and correspondence with authors and reviewers.  Access to this system is secure, with authors, reviewers and editors seeing different parts of the system.  Such systems have templates or forms that reviewers need to complete (see Example A).  See also Example B – e-mail form.  Some templates are more complex than others – but whatever the form you need to consider the same things:
  11. 11. Writing your review - approach  Respond to any questions on a review template (see Sample B on handout)  Focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript  Do not dispute the author’s opinions – provided they are consistent with the available evidence (literature and findings)  Offer positive feedback and encouragement.
  12. 12. Writing your review – key questions 1  Originality  Does the paper say something new and interesting enough to warrant publication?  Is the contribution and rationale for the research clearly articulated?  How does the article fit and compare with other recent articles in its field?  Does the paper fit the scope/be interesting to the readership of the journal?  Format  Does the structure of the article comply with the author guidelines for the journal?  Does do the title and the abstract state the purpose and approach of the article clearly?  Is the article readable, in terms of grammar, spelling and use of English language?  Are tables, figures and graphs clear and readable?  Are the references complete and in the format for the journal?
  13. 13. Writing your review – key questions 2  Introduction  Does this clearly articulate the research question/aims/objectives?  Does this provide a context and rational for the research?  Literature review  Is the relevant prior literature distilled, effectively and efficiently?  Methodology  Are any empirical processes (e.g. research instrument design, data collection, data analysis) explained clearly – and are they robust by the standards of the field?  Findings  Are any statistical analyses reported clearly?  Are the findings organised?  Discussion/conclusion  Are the claims supported by the results, and grounded in the previous research?  Are suggestions offered for further research and implications for practice?
  14. 14. Writing your review - Recommendations  Accept! (Very rare on first submission)  If the paper is suitable for publication in its current form  Minor revisions  Article can be ‘accepted in principle’  Examples: formatting changes, additions to the literature review, clarification of research methodology, elaboration on research findings.  Major revisions  The article is potentially of interest, but no commitment is being made  Examples: expanded data analysis, widening of literature review, re-structuring sections of the text, reducing length  Reject  The article is not suitable for this journal  It has some serious issues e.g. robustness of research methods, insignificant findings, very poorly drafted, unclear objectives.
  15. 15. Evaluating reviews - practice  The handout includes reviews in relation to two articles  Evaluate both of these sets of reviews, one after another:  Identify a list of strengths and weaknesses (taking into account the stage in the review process and the reviewers’ recommendation)  With a colleague, reflect on what you can learn from these reviews.
  16. 16. Happy reviewing!