Researcher Responsibility in the Peer Review Process

Researcher Responsibility in the Peer Review Process

This is the second in a three-part series on the importance of peer review. Click the links below to view related posts.


Scholarly research adds to the body of knowledge, and in many instances research results translate into important, much needed discipline-related organizational applications.  The peer review process ensures the rigor and integrity of an author’s research and serves as a regulatory component of publishing (Wenning, Burton, Ward, & Lynch, 2014).  Ultimately as scholarly authors, we must take responsibility for understanding the peer review process and what we must do to ensure that we submit work that meets the required standards for publication.

Planning Ahead

Benson (2015) recommended several action steps authors should take when evaluating a journal for potential article submission:

  1. The peer review process is not speedy.  If the turnaround time from submission to publication is an overly short timeframe, it may be that an in-depth analysis of your credentials and work is overlooked.  This should lead you to ask additional questions about the process.
  2. You should thoroughly review the information on the journal website.  If information is not listed on the website, it is important that you contact the journal editor to understand reviewers’ credentials and selection process.  It is also important to know if the review process uses a single or double blind process to prevent bias.
  3. Process transparency is vital.  You need to know how the editorial and peer review team determine article acceptance or rejection and an opportunity should exist for you to see the status of your work as it moves through the process.

It is important to use trustworthy sources to determine the journal quality for potential submission.  One option is to use Cabell’s Directories to review potential publication sources.  Journals must meet detailed criteria to be considered for inclusion in this directory (Cabell’s International, 2014).  In addition, viewing journals within the Emerald and Sage databases may also offer lists of potential credible peer reviewed journals.

For more information please see the predatory publishing article and the vanity press article.

Once you choose a journal as a potential publishing venue, be sure to look within the journal website for Author Guidelines.  These guidelines provide information on how to submit your manuscript to the journal, important copyright information, as well as manuscript requirements.  The manuscript guidelines normally cover the following information:

  • Format – the type of article file, for example, Microsoft Word document
  • Article length – the number of words allowed, stated usually in a range: for example 4,000-6000 words and whether this includes references and appendices
  • Article title restrictions – for example, the title must not be more than eight words
  • Author details – names, email addresses, and affiliations of all contributing authors
  • Declaration of research funding – if the authors receive funding, this must be disclosed
  • Abstract requirements – the required formatting and details that must be included
  • Keywords – the allowable number of keywords
  • Article classification – this is important because it tells the potential author which type of articles are acceptable for that journal: research paper, viewpoint, technical paper, conceptual paper, case study or literature view
  • Headings, Figures and end notes – any special requirements for these items
  • Reference formatting – APA, Harvard, Chicago, or MLA and formatting examples for source types, though sometimes journals have their own style guide for formatting.

Following the stated specifications in the Author Guidelines ensures that you meet the basic manuscript presentation requirements for submission to that journal.  In many instances, a Frequently Asked Questions section is included in the Author Guidelines.

Assessing the Reviewer Feedback

Reviewing feedback from the peer reviewers requires time and the proper mindset to fully understand the proffered comments.  Potential authors should keep an open mind and embrace the review as constructive critique rather than as an attempt to demoralize the author and discourage publication of the work.  “…the advice to ‘Revise and resubmit’ actually encourages resubmission; it does not close down that dialogue, it aims to help improve its quality” (Wisker, 2013, p. 353).

A thorough review for a research paper submission may evaluate the following criteria:

  • Topic originality – how is this information adding to the body of current knowledge? What is unique about this research?
  • Literature Review – did the author thoroughly compare and contrast all significant sources of current information related to the topic?
  • Methodology – does the theoretical or conceptual framework support the chosen method and design?
  • Results – are the results clearly and accurately presented? Are conclusions directly related to the results?
  • Implications for research, practice and/or society – Is there a clear blending of theory and application? Are the implications consistent with the conclusions and results?
  • Writing skill – Is the manuscript readable with clear sentence structure, spelling, punctuation, and formatting?

While the peer review process is generally double-blinded – meaning the author and reviewers are not revealed to each other, the author should respond to the editor if there are questions regarding the reviewers’ comments.  For example, it is important to write the editor if two reviewers make conflicting recommendations or if clarification is needed regarding the exact expectations related to the requested changes. The editor’s reply helps to ensure that the author prepares the proper revisions prior to resubmission.  If the author vehemently disagrees with the requested changes after discussing the requests with the editor, it may be best to formally end the process with the current journal editor and submit to another journal (Corlett, 2004).  It should be keep in mind; however, that “outright acceptances with no revisions required are about as frequent as verified sightings of the Loch Ness monster” (Bell, 2015, para. 6.)

Serving as a Reviewer

Serving as a peer reviewer is a noble position that allows you to enhance your own professional skills.  However, you must realize that it is normally non-paid, time-consuming (review time may require several hours), with no formal training offered (Snell & Spencer, 2005).  The best way to prepare to become a review is to review your own submitted article feedback and continue to read the academic journals where you would like to become a reviewer in your area of expertise.

Most journal editors provide the reviewer with a review form that prompts the reviewer to evaluate specific criteria.  “Some reviewers may not always recognize that their role is not so much to critique the conclusion reached in a manuscript, but to critique the evidence and argument used to reach a given conclusion” (Briggs, 2014, p. 1).  For more general peer reviewer considerations, Hames (2013), on behalf of the Committee for Publication Ethics, provided a set of ethical guidelines for reviewers to follow throughout the entire process.

Conclusion

Publishing in credible journals is an exciting opportunity to share information and join the scholarly community.  It is important to remember that the peer review process, when correctly followed, ensures high-level quality, published work.  Understanding the value and process of peer review promotes a better understanding of your responsibilities as a scholarly author.

 

References

Bell, K. (2004, March 6). Revise and submit: Many meanings. Chronicle of Higher Education, 61(25), p. A30.

Benson, P. J. (2015, October). Eyes wide open: Reader and author responsibility in understanding the limits of peer review. Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, 97(7), 487-489.

Briggs, D. C. (2014, Spring). Editorial. Educational Management: Issues and Practice, 33(1), p. 1. DOI: 10.1111/emip.12029;

Cabell’s International (2014). About us. Retrieved from https://www.cabells.com/about-us

Corlett, J. A. (2004, December). Ethical issues in journal peer review. Journal of Academic Ethics, 2(4), 355-366. DOI: 10.1007/s10805-005-9001-1

Hames, I. (2013, March). COPE ethical guidelines for peer reviewers. Retrieved from http://publicationethics.org/files/Peer%20review%20guidelines_0.pdf

Snell, L, & Spencer, J. (2005, January). Reviewers’ perceptions of the peer review process for a medical education journal. Medical Education, 39(1), 90-97. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2929.2004.02026.x

Wenning, R. J., Burton, G. A., Ward, H., & Lynch, J. (2014). The importance of scientific peer review at SETAC. Environmental Technology and Chemistry, 33(1), 2-3. DOI: 10.1002/etc.2449.

Wisker, G. (2013). Articulate- academic writing, referring editing and publishing our work in learning, teaching, and educational development. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 50(4), 344-356. DOI: 10.1080/14703297.2013.839337