For the inexperienced or first time reviewer the peer review process can seem like a daunting one. Below we present some advice and guidance about how to conduct a review and put together a reviewer report that will be effective and beneficial to authors.
Read our Reviewer Guide and watch our informative videos for further insight in to the peer review process.
For more insight into how to conduct a review Mike Blades, Editor of Applied Spectroscopy, has written a blog post about peer review for Peer Review Week 2017 entitled 'A roadpage for peer review: Revisiting Erica Frank’s 1996 suggestions'. We are grateful for the support of all of our referees in helping authors to enhance and develop their papers. Please visit the Reviewer Rewards page to learn more about discounts and free journal access offered to reviewers of articles for SAGE journals.
Identity – Sometimes a reviewer will want to involve junior researchers in the review of an article as it can be good practice and experience for that person. However, you should ensure that you obtain permission from the journal editor prior to accepting the invitation to review. The names of everyone involved in doing the review should be submitted to the editor so that the journal records accurately reflect the review process that took place. Full guidelines for peer reviewers can be found on the Committee on Publication Ethics website here.
Timeliness – We understand that our reviewers are busy so it won’t always be possible for invitations to be accepted. Please let us know as soon as possible if they need to refuse a review or if a problem arises after the invitation has been accepted. Most journal editors are grateful to receive suggestions about someone else that might be suitable to do the review if you have to decline the invitation.
Conflict of Interest – it is important to highlight to the journal editor any conflict of interest that you feel might occur if you review the paper. Please do so as discretely and as quickly as possible.
Discussion – it is important to discuss with the journal editor any concerns that you have about the paper or their specific requirements for review if you are being invited to review for the first time. Editors are usually open to discussing their expectations and journal requirements with reviewers.
Ethics – Read the COPE guidelines for peer reviewers and visit the Ethics page of this Reviewer Gateway for more information about ethics matters related to peer review. Watch our Peer Review Ethics video for information on ethical considerations when conducting peer review.
Individual Journal Reviewer Guidelines
It is usually the case that the best reviews are the ones that provide a thorough analysis of the content and discuss how it contributes (or maybe doesn’t contribute!) to the specific field. Some journals carry specific reviewer guidelines, so please check the journal’s website before embarking on your report. These guidelines will sometimes include a list of questions and will usually offer the reviewer the chance to make general comments.
If a journal does not offer a structured questionnaire or form for reviewers, it can be useful to think about the following things as you read the paper to help you structure your report:
What to look out for and comment on
Structure and Communication
Feedback in your reviewer report – giving advice to authors and suggesting revisions
Making a decision
Most important – keep all activity, content and comments relating to the paper confidential.
For information on ethics and responsibility and how to act if you suspect that misconduct has taken place, please see the Ethics section of this Gateway and remember to keep your suspicions confidential, between you and the journal editor, at all times. We are committed to upholding the integrity of the work we publish.
SAGE is pleased to recommend the Publons Academy. The Academy is a formal training course providing researchers with the skills, connections and experience required to become an expert peer reviewer. The course includes:
- 10 learning modules covering everything you need to know to write reviews
- Practical experience of writing reviews
- Access to a mentor who will provide feedback on your reviews
- A certificate and badge on your Publons profile on completion of the course