The idea of going through the process of a peer review can be intimidating for the best of researchers. Someone is taking your hard work and dissecting it with the intent of looking for ways to critique what amounts to your creation. You put your sweat and tears into the finished product and it’s now in someone else’s hands. But if you approach this process the right way, a peer review to an early career researcher can be a game-changer.
Peer reviews are frequently used in research as a regular exercise in which the writer/researcher extends their work to others at the same level. The intent is to ensure prior to publication that the researcher’s evidence is clearly stated, valid, and of the highest quality. Using peer reviews strategically in career research provides the early researcher an opportunity to learn some important lessons before it affects their scholarship.
The Obstacles in a Peer Review Process
Insecurities and other arguments that arise with early career researchers during a peer review process are typically consistent. Opponents of this historically used lesson opportunity claim that flaws include challenges such as:
● A slow, laborious process. Early career researchers are usually ready to turn in their product and have it evaluated as soon as it is completed. They want to get the credit for their work and move forward in their degree.
● Official peer reviews are costly. A quid pro quo approach to having your work peer-reviewed could be beneficial, or it could be a waste of time. As you are painstakingly evaluating your partner’s work, they may be blowing off yours until the last minute and skimming the surface. An official peer review, however helpful, is still going to cost you out of your pocket.
● The reviews are biased and frequently contradictory. The majority of peer reviews are based on subjective elements, and you may have multiple people review your writing, only to find that their suggestions contradict each other. From there, the problem becomes deciding which arguments are the ones you want to follow.
● Author disagreement. As the researcher and writer of your paper, you know what you said and why you said it. Therefore, when a peer reviewer makes a suggestion that is contrary to your intention, you have to decide whether to listen to their feedback or go with your original reasoning.
With so many sound arguments against peer reviews, why, then are they still in use? The answer is that the lessons that could be gained from a strategic review are more advantageous than any obstacle that must be overcome.
Learning Through Peer Review
When an early career researcher approaches the process with an open mind and ready to understand how to handle the result, peer review offers many opportunities for lessons. It’s not one-sided, however. Both parties of a peer review process should learn strategies to help the researcher become more confident when facing a peer review and reviewers to ease tensions with their reviewee.
For the researcher, some helpful tips to approach the peer review process include:
● Being specific to the reviewer about which areas you’d like them to focus on
● Breaking up the review into multiple chunks with conferencing after each session
● Providing the reviewer with a list of criteria that was required for your research
● Going into the process with an open mind and willingness to accept criticism
The reviewer can also handle this process strategically by using strategies such as:
● Writing the review politely and with constructive criticism
● Focusing on the strengths as well as the weaknesses
● Following through on deadlines and meetings
● Allowing sufficient time to be thorough with the review, not rushed
● Addressing larger problems at the start, such as organization, evidence, audience, etc., and allowing the researcher an attempt to revise critical problems before delving into further issues
● Making specific comments and requesting clarification as needed for thorough comprehension
● Ensuring all comments are constructive and not vindictive or demeaning
When both parties are on board with the importance of the peer review, it can be a valuable learning experience for the early career researcher.
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