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How to improve your role in the peer review process

Serving as manuscript peer reviewer is an important, critical professional activity, yet most peer reviewers do not receive any mentoring in the process from their colleagues. Peer review is only as good as the individuals who participate. Individuals who provide constructive reviews can enhance their own writing skills and extend their professional reputation through editors who will often look to good reviewers as future journal editorial advisory board members.

When reviewing a journal, read and evaluate the manuscript from different three perspectives, and employing three critical assumptions:

First Perspective: Read the manuscript and gain an understanding of the content and focus of the work.
First Critical Assumption: The reviewer has agreed to review in an area of their professional expertise.
Second Perspective: Read the manuscript from the perspective of a competitor with a critical, but objective eye.
Second Critical Assumption: The reviewer does not have a conflict of interest with the author(s) involved in the work.
Third Perspective: Read from the perspective of a colleague/friend who wants to improve the manuscript quality, providing suggestions and recommendations, as well as identifying additional work or clarifications to enhance the quality of the the current or revised manuscript .
Third Critical Assumption: The reviewer provides comments which focus on improving the quality of the study/work or the results/conclusions rather than simply dismissing the efforts by the author(s).

Here are some additional suggestions for how peer reviewers can improve the quality of their role in the peer review process:

  • Read any documentation provided by the journal on the style, content or process for the submitted review. Many journals also provide a series of questions reviewers should address in the review. If this is unclear, a reviewer should discuss any concerns with the journal editor. The review process is increasingly being conducted using websites that enable the reviewer to answer specific questions requested by the journal, to enter their comments directly, or to upload their reviews.
  • Write the review after reading the manuscript for the second or third time. Use constructive and courteous language in a format that enables the authors to understand the article’s strengths and to address its limitations.
  • Complete reviews in a timely manner by the date requested by the editor. If there will be delay in submitting the review, let the editor know. Reviewers shouldn’t hinder the manuscript process or increase the article author’s anxiety by making them wait even longer to hear about their submission.


Dr. Gayle A. Brazeau is a Dean and Professor in the School of Pharmacy at Marshall University. She serves on several editorial advisory boards for scientific and educational journals.