There is a lot to process when taking on a peer review. Here is a broad overview of the elements that can help you do a good job.
1. Respond Promptly to Invitations
When you receive an invitation to review, the article’s abstract will help you decide whether it’s within your area of interest and expertise. Remember to respond promptly or else you might delay the process.
2. Show Integrity
Keep the contents of any manuscripts you’re reviewing confidential. You would expect the same of others reviewing your own work. What’s more, if you’ve submitted similar research of your own, or if you’ve reviewed the article for a different journal, let the editor know there’s a conflict of interest. Agreeing to a review for personal gain is not the done thing.
3. Stay Within Scope
When commenting, make sure your remarks stay within the scope of the paper and don’t veer off subject. If you’re unclear of the scope, editorial policy, presentation and submission requirements, speak to the editor or read the Author Guidelines.
4. Be Constructive
Your review should ultimately help the author improve the paper. So make sure you offer some constructive feedback, even if your recommendation ends up being to reject.
5. Allocate Enough Time
Carefully analyzing and commenting on a manuscript can take a good chunk of time. Make sure you have enough time available when taking on a review.
6. Be Consistent
Structure your comments by numbering them. It makes the editor’s life a lot easier. You can also divide them into major and minor issues to help authors prioritize corrections. Keep comments to authors separate from the confidential ones to editors. But make sure your comments to authors correspond to your assessment on the confidential review and checklists.
7. Focus on the Research
If you’re reviewing a paper that’s in English but wasn’t written by a native speaker, it’s good to be tolerant and point out elements that change the meaning, rather than commenting on the quality of their English.
8. Look at the Conclusion First
The conclusion will give you a good idea whether the research is an exciting development within its own field.
9. Check Robustness of Facts
Editors find it useful if you comment on the number of replicates, controls and statistical analyses. Strong statistics are crucial to determining whether the outcome is robust.
10. Give Credit Where It’s Due
If a paper you’re reviewing is really good and an excellent addition to the existing literature, don’t be afraid to say so.