Peer review is a very important and integral component of the editorial process. It plays a crucial role in increasing the quality of a paper. The three major objectives of peer review include the following:
- It provides expert opinion to authors on the quality of their work.
- It assesses the scientific validity of the methodology and the results.
- It presents crucial information to editors to take the find decision on publishing the paper.
The peer review process relies heavily on the voluntary contribution of the peer reviewers, who spare their valuable time in performing the peer review. In order to do justice to a paper submitted for peer review, it is important that the peer reviewers themselves are equipped with the knowledge, expertise, and skills to perform the peer review. Moreover, they should have a thorough understanding of the entire peer review process. The present guideline addresses these aspects.
The reviewer’s comments should be divided into (i) Comments to the authors and (ii) Comments to the editor.
Comments to the Authors
The comments to the authors should be based on a thorough examination of the entire paper, analyzing each section in minute detail. These aspects are addressed below, following the format and structure of a typical research paper.
Title and Abstract: It must be ensured that the title is accurate and clearly conveys the focus of the study in a nutshell. It should be checked that the abstract is structured, informative and concisely summarizes the study. Numerical data presented in the abstract should match the data presented in the main body of the text. Moreover, the conclusions should correctly interpret the results and be focused and incisive.
Introduction: This section should be checked to ascertain whether it clearly and succinctly states the research question, the aims and objectives and the rationale for the study.
Materials and Methods:The reviewer should closely examine this section to understand the study process and how it was conducted. It should be ensured that the study design is flawless and that it was strictly adhered to by the authors while conducting the experiments.
The reviewer should check whether the study was approved by the institutional ethics committee and that informed consent was taken in case of clinical studies involving patients. Also, the reviewer should closely inspect whether appropriate statistical analysis was carried out. If in doubt, the reviewer should inform the editor to consult the journalâ€™s statistician.
Results: The reviewer should assess whether the results have been clearly presented and there is no repetition of data in the text as well as in the tables and figures. The tables and figures should be easy to understand and correctly labelled. All the study participants should be accounted for. Moreover, it must be ensured that all numerical values are consistent throughout the paper i.e. in the abstract, results, tables and figures.
Discussion: In this section, the reviewer should check whether the authors have compared their study with similar published studies in the literature and whether their study agrees or disagrees with previous findings. It should also be checked whether the authors have stated the strengths and limitations of the study and their possible impact on interpretation of the results. The reviewer should carefully assess whether the conclusions are justified and warranted by the data presented in the paper.
References: The reviewer should ensure that the references are appropriate, up-to-date, and comply with the style of referencing followed by the journal.
Comments to the Editor
The comments to the editor should be highly confidential. In these comments, the editor should be advised about the fate of the paper, such as (i) acceptance in the present form without any revision, (ii) acceptance after a minor revision, (iii) acceptance after a major revision, and (iv) rejection at the present stage. The editor should be informed about the novelty and originality of the research and its contribution to the respective field of knowledge. While providing the comments to the editor, the reviewer should disclose if there is any conflict of interest in reviewing the paper. This information will allow the editor to weigh the comments submitted by the reviewer while making the final decision.
Points to Remember
- Specific advice on improvement of the quality and accuracy of the paper should be provided to the authors.
- The authors should be clearly informed if the content of the paper is incomprehensible.
- Comments regarding acceptance or rejection should not be conveyed to the authors as the final decision lies with the editor.
- Harsh comments to authors should be avoided even if the recommendation is to reject the paper.
- The length of the review for most papers can be around two to three pages, depending on the contents and length of the paper â€“ a lengthy paper may require a more detailed review, but should be kept below ten pages.
- The authors should be advised about typography, grammar, syntax, and style of writing in order to improve the quality of the paper so that it is compliant with the requirements of the journal.
- The contents of the paper as well as the reviewâ€™s comments should be strictly kept confidential.
- The reviewerâ€™s comments should be submitted within the timeframe fixed by the journal, which is generally seven days.
It should be kept in mind that the ultimate objective of medical peer review is to promote health and wellbeing. Moreover, the entire peer review process also provides multiple benefits, not only for the authors, readers, and editors, but also for the peer reviewers themselves. The authors and readers benefit from a well-polished paper that is comprehensible and easy to read. The editors benefit from the fact that the quality and standard of the journal is enhanced through the efforts of the peer reviewers. Finally, for the peer reviewers, the whole exercise helps to sharpen their editing and writing skills, which appreciably contributes towards improvement of their own research.