Researchers
October 28, 2020

Structuring Fair and Well Thought Out Comments for Peer Review

Writing comments for a peer review in research is a difficult endeavor. On the one hand, you want to be fair and honest, but on the other hand, you don’t want to come across overly critical and have the writer ignore your comment due to hurt feelings. There is a lot of damage that can be done if erroneous information is allowed to be published. To prevent this from happening, it’s important to structure fair and well thought out comments in your peer review answers.

Peer reviews are a normal part of the process of getting research published, and have been for centuries. Whether you’re on the receiving end of critique for your paper or you are the one doling out the pros and cons of a scholar’s hard work, the comments in a peer review are the most crucial part of the process.

As a reviewee, knowing what to accept as fair criticism and what to let go of is hard enough, but as the reviewer, structuring fair and well thought out comments is not a job to take on lightly. There is a balance you have to find between being fair and honest and not being so critical that the writer ignores your comments in favor of their ego and hurt feelings. This is particularly important if there is erroneous information contained in the article. It’s your job to ensure the researcher corrects these errors before they send their work out for publication, but to do so requires a certain level of finesse in the way you write your comments to them when you send your peer review answers.

Why Peer Review is Important

The process of peer review isn’t in place just to judge a writer’s work. There are serious and important reasons behind a good, thorough peer-review interaction for both parties, such as:

●      An opportunity for reflection for the reviewer. As you read someone else’s research, there may be things you realize you didn’t know, even as much as you consider yourself an expert. Reviewing the article gives you the chance to use your knowledge on the subject, too. You may not have used some of the information in a long time, depending on what the topic is, so this gives you a chance to pull out your mind and think! Consider how to form your comments constructively in a way that would not come across as offensive while you are reflecting.

●      Reviewers have a say in the quality of the work being published. If you are reading an article that is written and is informing the reader of low-quality research, you can prevent that work from being published and detracting from the legitimacy of the field of scholarly research.

●      Students have the opportunity to have training from an expert in the field and reviewers are always learning new things when they work with someone else through academic discourse and dialogue. This opportunity helps each other out builds community in the field of science and increases networking opportunities.

Once an article gets through the peer review process, it should be of a high enough caliber to where the reviewer and writer both feel confident in its capacity to be published.

The Peer Review Outline

Using an outline as you go finalize your notations about the research paper you are reviewing helps keep you focused and also makes your points easier for the author to understand.

Comments written informally throughout the paper are hard to follow and writing in the margins makes it difficult to expand on an idea. Instead, use a blank document to form your own thoughts for yourself and then tie it all together at the end with an outline that includes this information:

●      In your response, keep all of the most important information at the top. This area should include a summary of the main ideas you took away from the research and how you felt about the quality of the paper in general.

●      Move on to separating the problems you found, starting with the little issues and giving evidence of your opinion. It’s easier for the mind to tackle small problems, in general, and move on to the bigger ones, rather than starting with major issues first.

●      Discuss any major finds you noticed by giving evidence and examples of how they could potentially correct the issues rather than just pointing them out and moving on.

●      Close out your paper with any other comments you want to make, such as supportive or motivational thoughts you might have about their hard work and dedication or about the paper itself.

Keep your comments fair and well thought out, balancing criticism with encouragement when you can. Remember how you felt on the receiving end of the peer review process and try to remain supportive even with difficult to review papers.

Completing the Publishing Process with Impactio

Whether you’re an expert in your field or just starting out as an early career researcher, you have one thing in common with all other scholarly experts: You must publish your work or perish, as they say in the field.

Impactio, the all-in-one publishing, and networking program designed for academic experts help you do this regardless of your expertise. With Impactio, it’s easy to put together peer review outlines and commentary, create presentations with professional PDF documents and web pages, build an academic profile to share with others, and track your work’s academic impact.

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Jason Collins
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Jason is a writer for many niche brands with experience “bringing stories to life” for both startups and corporate partners.

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