Reviewing. Reviewing is how scientists keep each other scientific. When a paper is done, it is submitted to an editor for publication, who passes it to anonymous reviewers who may recommend accept, minor revisions, major revisions or reject. Consider the following review of a conference paper:

I recommend a reject for this paper because I think it is too early to publish. I suggest that you spend more time on writing the paper to describe the research more coherently and completely.

Detailed comments:

1. You need to rewrite the introduction to not be a repeat of the abstract. 2. The paper is inconsistent regarding sample size. 3. There is no description of the paper structure in the introduction 4. Most of the references are old. Take the time to update your references on this topic. 5. You need to describe the study in more detail. 6. Reorganize the paper structure correctly. You mix up analysis, findings and discussion.7. Remove imprecise statements, e.g. “more than four fifths” isnt precise enough for research. 8. The term “visible minority” is not defined. 9. There are English spelling and grammar errors. Turn on “grammar and style” in Word. 11. The general conclusions are very weak.

It is hard to take rejection and criticism, but take a deep breath and do the following:

  • Accept it. Appreciate that someone knowledgeable read your work and took the time to offer advice.
  • Improve it. In science, a review is an opportunity to improve. Go through each point made and if you agree, improve the paper. If you don’t, make the case why in your reply to the editor. Either way, don’t ignore it! Even if the reviewer misunderstood, you can improve the paper so other readers don’t misunderstand in the same way.

Different publications ask reviewers to rate submissions by different criteria but in my experience, they reduce to different words for the following:

  • Relevant. Is this of interest to the target audience? (Introduction, Discussion)
  • Rigorous. Does this have scientific merit? (Method, Results)
  • Comprehensive. Is previous knowledge recognized? (Literature review, Discussion)
  • Logical. Are ideas logically structured and presented? (All)
  • Original. Is something new presented, different from previous work? (All)
  • Well written. Is it readable, understandable and presentable? (All)

Most editors want submission that are not only rigorous, logical and comprehensive but also relevant, original and well written, as these are not mutually exclusive. Click on the links to check each review aspect before submitting your paper!

Science  Writing  Review  Glossary Checklist  Next