Journal peer review is a vital part of the publishing process. It is the part in which researchers use their expert knowledge of a topic to evaluate an article for its accuracy and rigor. They make sure the article builds on and adds to the current literature. Their crucial feedback influences the future of a manuscript’s publication status.
Having reviewed papers for different tourism and hospitality journals during the past seven years, I wish to share some thoughts on what to consider when conducting a peer review.
First, before starting the review, it is imperative to understand the journal’s peer review requirements. These requirements are the overarching guide for the feedback that the reviewer provides.
Second, it is central to focus on the added value of the scientific knowledge and not so much on fixing grammatical errors, spelling mistakes or awkward language. In the end, the paper is not about style but substance, unless the style gets in the way. In that situation, then it is failing on the most basic level.
Third, it is important to be specific and not give general comments. Specifying exactly the text and its weakness is good reviewing. For example, a reviewer commented “A very obscure section (methodology)” on one of my own recently submitted manuscripts. The comment could mean many things and does not really help.
Fourth, reviewers should provide structured and detailed comments about the manuscript. A good way to help the author is to start with the major problems and then list more minor comments afterwards. Major comments are those that will take substantial work to resolve. Minor comments are recommendations for revisions but not necessarily essential for the paper to be published.
Fifth, constructive feedback is highly recommended and the reviewer should focus on addressing problems rather than reasons why the article should not be published. Reviewers should propose alternative approaches to help the journal editor and the author publish the best possible content.
Sixth, reviewers do not have to be impolite and harsh. On the contrary, it is more beneficial to be empathetic and put oneself into the shoes of the author. It is always a good idea to ensure that ones reviews are scientific, helpful as well as courteous.
Seventh, reviewers need to be responsible and stick to given deadlines. It is not wise to wait for many notifications from the journal. Once the invitation to review is accepted, the responsibility is to do it. The deadline that is given for the review work is usually designed to be timely.
Lastly, a critical aspect of a good review is consistency between the comments to the author and the recommended disposition. If the reviewer suggests rejecting the manuscript, but provides comments for revisions, clarifications are needed. Consistency makes it understandable, that the paper is worthwhile but the way the manuscript is currently written, is not of sufficient quality for publication.
The work of reviewers is important as they ensure the quality and integrity of research literature. Therefore, the role of a peer reviewer should be that of a scientific peer. Together and in collaboration we build academic credibility.