If you’re new to peer reviewing, deciding how to put together a review report can be tricky. We’ve put together the following tips and advice to help you get started. Remember, if you’ve been given a formal report format to follow, you should do so. A formal report format will often contain a variety of questions, followed by sections where you can enter your comments. Try to answer as many of these questions as you can.
But what if you haven’t received a formal report format to follow? You might want to consider structuring your report around three main sections: summary, major issues, and minor issues. Let’s look at each of these sections in a little more detail:
In this section, you should make a brief summary of what the paper is about and what the main findings are.
- Begin with any positive feedback you have – if you start off on a positive note, authors will be more likely to read your review. However, if you are recommending that the paper be rejected, just be careful not to overwhelm the author with negative feedback.
- Try to put the findings of the paper into the context of the existing literature and current knowledge. What is the significance of the work? Is it novel, or does it confirm existing theories or
- Give an indication of the main strengths of the work, its quality, and how complete it is.
- Outline any major flaws you come across and make a note of any special considerations. For example, have any previously held theories been overlooked?
In this section, you’ll need to state any major flaws you find in the work, and how severe their impact is upon the paper. Major flaws might include:
- Similar work having been published already without any acknowledgment from the authors of the paper.
- If the authors’ work presents findings that challenge current thinking, is the evidence they present strong enough to prove their case? Have they cited all of the work that contradicts their thinking and addressed it appropriately?
- Any major presentational problems – any figures and tables, the language used, and the manuscript structure should all be clear enough for you to accurately assess the work.
- Ethical issues – you might want to consider disclosing these in a confidential comments section if you are unsure.
If any major revisions are required to the paper, make sure you clearly outline what these are.
Finally, you should state any other minor issues that you’ve come across when reviewing the paper. These might include:
- Any instances where meaning is ambiguous. Could these be corrected?
- Incorrect references – should other references be cited instead, or in addition? State if you think references are excessive, limited, or biased in any way.
- Any factual, numerical or unit errors – indicate clearly what these are.
- Incorrect, inappropriate or insufficient labelling of tables and figures.
Don’t forget the purpose of your report; your aim should ultimately be to help the authors improve their work. Be polite and clear throughout, and remember to be both constructive and objective.
For further tips on putting together a review report, or to find out more about peer review in general, take a look at our reviewer resources pages.
Do you have any further advice on structuring a review report? Let us know in the comments below!
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