Peer review process

Introduction to peer review, what is peer review.

Peer review is the system used to assess the quality of a manuscript before it is published. Independent researchers in the relevant research area assess submitted manuscripts for originality, validity and significance to help editors determine whether a manuscript should be published in their journal.

How does it work?

When a manuscript is submitted to a journal, it is assessed to see if it meets the criteria for submission. If it does, the editorial team will select potential peer reviewers within the field of research to peer-review the manuscript and make recommendations.

There are four main types of peer review used by BMC:

Single-blind: the reviewers know the names of the authors, but the authors do not know who reviewed their manuscript unless the reviewer chooses to sign their report.

Double-blind: the reviewers do not know the names of the authors, and the authors do not know who reviewed their manuscript.

Open peer: authors know who the reviewers are, and the reviewers know who the authors are. If the manuscript is accepted, the named reviewer reports are published alongside the article and the authors’ response to the reviewer.

Transparent peer: the reviewers know the names of the authors, but the authors do not know who reviewed their manuscript unless the reviewer chooses to sign their report. If the manuscript is accepted, the anonymous reviewer reports are published alongside the article and the authors’ response to the reviewer.

Different journals use different types of peer review. You can find out which peer-review system is used by a particular journal in the journal’s ‘About’ page.

Why do peer review?

Peer review is an integral part of scientific publishing that confirms the validity of the manuscript. Peer reviewers are experts who volunteer their time to help improve the manuscripts they review. By undergoing peer review, manuscripts should become:

More robust - peer reviewers may point out gaps in a paper that require more explanation or additional experiments.

Easier to read - if parts of your paper are difficult to understand, reviewers can suggest changes.

More useful - peer reviewers also consider the importance of your paper to others in your field.

For more information and advice on how to get published, please see our blog series here .

How peer review works


The peer review process can be single-blind, double-blind, open or transparent.

You can find out which peer review system is used by a particular journal in the journal's 'About' page.

N. B. This diagram is a representation of the peer review process, and should not be taken as the definitive approach used by every journal.

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  • v.25(3); 2014 Oct

Peer Review in Scientific Publications: Benefits, Critiques, & A Survival Guide

Jacalyn kelly.

1 Clinical Biochemistry, Department of Pediatric Laboratory Medicine, The Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Tara Sadeghieh

Khosrow adeli.

2 Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

3 Chair, Communications and Publications Division (CPD), International Federation for Sick Clinical Chemistry (IFCC), Milan, Italy

The authors declare no conflicts of interest regarding publication of this article.

Peer review has been defined as a process of subjecting an author’s scholarly work, research or ideas to the scrutiny of others who are experts in the same field. It functions to encourage authors to meet the accepted high standards of their discipline and to control the dissemination of research data to ensure that unwarranted claims, unacceptable interpretations or personal views are not published without prior expert review. Despite its wide-spread use by most journals, the peer review process has also been widely criticised due to the slowness of the process to publish new findings and due to perceived bias by the editors and/or reviewers. Within the scientific community, peer review has become an essential component of the academic writing process. It helps ensure that papers published in scientific journals answer meaningful research questions and draw accurate conclusions based on professionally executed experimentation. Submission of low quality manuscripts has become increasingly prevalent, and peer review acts as a filter to prevent this work from reaching the scientific community. The major advantage of a peer review process is that peer-reviewed articles provide a trusted form of scientific communication. Since scientific knowledge is cumulative and builds on itself, this trust is particularly important. Despite the positive impacts of peer review, critics argue that the peer review process stifles innovation in experimentation, and acts as a poor screen against plagiarism. Despite its downfalls, there has not yet been a foolproof system developed to take the place of peer review, however, researchers have been looking into electronic means of improving the peer review process. Unfortunately, the recent explosion in online only/electronic journals has led to mass publication of a large number of scientific articles with little or no peer review. This poses significant risk to advances in scientific knowledge and its future potential. The current article summarizes the peer review process, highlights the pros and cons associated with different types of peer review, and describes new methods for improving peer review.


Peer Review is defined as “a process of subjecting an author’s scholarly work, research or ideas to the scrutiny of others who are experts in the same field” ( 1 ). Peer review is intended to serve two primary purposes. Firstly, it acts as a filter to ensure that only high quality research is published, especially in reputable journals, by determining the validity, significance and originality of the study. Secondly, peer review is intended to improve the quality of manuscripts that are deemed suitable for publication. Peer reviewers provide suggestions to authors on how to improve the quality of their manuscripts, and also identify any errors that need correcting before publication.


The concept of peer review was developed long before the scholarly journal. In fact, the peer review process is thought to have been used as a method of evaluating written work since ancient Greece ( 2 ). The peer review process was first described by a physician named Ishaq bin Ali al-Rahwi of Syria, who lived from 854-931 CE, in his book Ethics of the Physician ( 2 ). There, he stated that physicians must take notes describing the state of their patients’ medical conditions upon each visit. Following treatment, the notes were scrutinized by a local medical council to determine whether the physician had met the required standards of medical care. If the medical council deemed that the appropriate standards were not met, the physician in question could receive a lawsuit from the maltreated patient ( 2 ).

The invention of the printing press in 1453 allowed written documents to be distributed to the general public ( 3 ). At this time, it became more important to regulate the quality of the written material that became publicly available, and editing by peers increased in prevalence. In 1620, Francis Bacon wrote the work Novum Organum, where he described what eventually became known as the first universal method for generating and assessing new science ( 3 ). His work was instrumental in shaping the Scientific Method ( 3 ). In 1665, the French Journal des sçavans and the English Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society were the first scientific journals to systematically publish research results ( 4 ). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society is thought to be the first journal to formalize the peer review process in 1665 ( 5 ), however, it is important to note that peer review was initially introduced to help editors decide which manuscripts to publish in their journals, and at that time it did not serve to ensure the validity of the research ( 6 ). It did not take long for the peer review process to evolve, and shortly thereafter papers were distributed to reviewers with the intent of authenticating the integrity of the research study before publication. The Royal Society of Edinburgh adhered to the following peer review process, published in their Medical Essays and Observations in 1731: “Memoirs sent by correspondence are distributed according to the subject matter to those members who are most versed in these matters. The report of their identity is not known to the author.” ( 7 ). The Royal Society of London adopted this review procedure in 1752 and developed the “Committee on Papers” to review manuscripts before they were published in Philosophical Transactions ( 6 ).

Peer review in the systematized and institutionalized form has developed immensely since the Second World War, at least partly due to the large increase in scientific research during this period ( 7 ). It is now used not only to ensure that a scientific manuscript is experimentally and ethically sound, but also to determine which papers sufficiently meet the journal’s standards of quality and originality before publication. Peer review is now standard practice by most credible scientific journals, and is an essential part of determining the credibility and quality of work submitted.


Peer review has become the foundation of the scholarly publication system because it effectively subjects an author’s work to the scrutiny of other experts in the field. Thus, it encourages authors to strive to produce high quality research that will advance the field. Peer review also supports and maintains integrity and authenticity in the advancement of science. A scientific hypothesis or statement is generally not accepted by the academic community unless it has been published in a peer-reviewed journal ( 8 ). The Institute for Scientific Information ( ISI ) only considers journals that are peer-reviewed as candidates to receive Impact Factors. Peer review is a well-established process which has been a formal part of scientific communication for over 300 years.


The peer review process begins when a scientist completes a research study and writes a manuscript that describes the purpose, experimental design, results, and conclusions of the study. The scientist then submits this paper to a suitable journal that specializes in a relevant research field, a step referred to as pre-submission. The editors of the journal will review the paper to ensure that the subject matter is in line with that of the journal, and that it fits with the editorial platform. Very few papers pass this initial evaluation. If the journal editors feel the paper sufficiently meets these requirements and is written by a credible source, they will send the paper to accomplished researchers in the field for a formal peer review. Peer reviewers are also known as referees (this process is summarized in Figure 1 ). The role of the editor is to select the most appropriate manuscripts for the journal, and to implement and monitor the peer review process. Editors must ensure that peer reviews are conducted fairly, and in an effective and timely manner. They must also ensure that there are no conflicts of interest involved in the peer review process.

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Overview of the review process

When a reviewer is provided with a paper, he or she reads it carefully and scrutinizes it to evaluate the validity of the science, the quality of the experimental design, and the appropriateness of the methods used. The reviewer also assesses the significance of the research, and judges whether the work will contribute to advancement in the field by evaluating the importance of the findings, and determining the originality of the research. Additionally, reviewers identify any scientific errors and references that are missing or incorrect. Peer reviewers give recommendations to the editor regarding whether the paper should be accepted, rejected, or improved before publication in the journal. The editor will mediate author-referee discussion in order to clarify the priority of certain referee requests, suggest areas that can be strengthened, and overrule reviewer recommendations that are beyond the study’s scope ( 9 ). If the paper is accepted, as per suggestion by the peer reviewer, the paper goes into the production stage, where it is tweaked and formatted by the editors, and finally published in the scientific journal. An overview of the review process is presented in Figure 1 .


Peer reviews are conducted by scientific experts with specialized knowledge on the content of the manuscript, as well as by scientists with a more general knowledge base. Peer reviewers can be anyone who has competence and expertise in the subject areas that the journal covers. Reviewers can range from young and up-and-coming researchers to old masters in the field. Often, the young reviewers are the most responsive and deliver the best quality reviews, though this is not always the case. On average, a reviewer will conduct approximately eight reviews per year, according to a study on peer review by the Publishing Research Consortium (PRC) ( 7 ). Journals will often have a pool of reviewers with diverse backgrounds to allow for many different perspectives. They will also keep a rather large reviewer bank, so that reviewers do not get burnt out, overwhelmed or time constrained from reviewing multiple articles simultaneously.


Referees are typically not paid to conduct peer reviews and the process takes considerable effort, so the question is raised as to what incentive referees have to review at all. Some feel an academic duty to perform reviews, and are of the mentality that if their peers are expected to review their papers, then they should review the work of their peers as well. Reviewers may also have personal contacts with editors, and may want to assist as much as possible. Others review to keep up-to-date with the latest developments in their field, and reading new scientific papers is an effective way to do so. Some scientists use peer review as an opportunity to advance their own research as it stimulates new ideas and allows them to read about new experimental techniques. Other reviewers are keen on building associations with prestigious journals and editors and becoming part of their community, as sometimes reviewers who show dedication to the journal are later hired as editors. Some scientists see peer review as a chance to become aware of the latest research before their peers, and thus be first to develop new insights from the material. Finally, in terms of career development, peer reviewing can be desirable as it is often noted on one’s resume or CV. Many institutions consider a researcher’s involvement in peer review when assessing their performance for promotions ( 11 ). Peer reviewing can also be an effective way for a scientist to show their superiors that they are committed to their scientific field ( 5 ).


A 2009 international survey of 4000 peer reviewers conducted by the charity Sense About Science at the British Science Festival at the University of Surrey, found that 90% of reviewers were keen to peer review ( 12 ). One third of respondents to the survey said they were happy to review up to five papers per year, and an additional one third of respondents were happy to review up to ten.


On average, it takes approximately six hours to review one paper ( 12 ), however, this number may vary greatly depending on the content of the paper and the nature of the peer reviewer. One in every 100 participants in the “Sense About Science” survey claims to have taken more than 100 hours to review their last paper ( 12 ).


Ulrichsweb is a directory that provides information on over 300,000 periodicals, including information regarding which journals are peer reviewed ( 13 ). After logging into the system using an institutional login (eg. from the University of Toronto), search terms, journal titles or ISSN numbers can be entered into the search bar. The database provides the title, publisher, and country of origin of the journal, and indicates whether the journal is still actively publishing. The black book symbol (labelled ‘refereed’) reveals that the journal is peer reviewed.


As previously mentioned, when a reviewer receives a scientific manuscript, he/she will first determine if the subject matter is well suited for the content of the journal. The reviewer will then consider whether the research question is important and original, a process which may be aided by a literature scan of review articles.

Scientific papers submitted for peer review usually follow a specific structure that begins with the title, followed by the abstract, introduction, methodology, results, discussion, conclusions, and references. The title must be descriptive and include the concept and organism investigated, and potentially the variable manipulated and the systems used in the study. The peer reviewer evaluates if the title is descriptive enough, and ensures that it is clear and concise. A study by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) published by the Oxford University Press in 2006 indicated that the title of a manuscript plays a significant role in determining reader interest, as 72% of respondents said they could usually judge whether an article will be of interest to them based on the title and the author, while 13% of respondents claimed to always be able to do so ( 14 ).

The abstract is a summary of the paper, which briefly mentions the background or purpose, methods, key results, and major conclusions of the study. The peer reviewer assesses whether the abstract is sufficiently informative and if the content of the abstract is consistent with the rest of the paper. The NAR study indicated that 40% of respondents could determine whether an article would be of interest to them based on the abstract alone 60-80% of the time, while 32% could judge an article based on the abstract 80-100% of the time ( 14 ). This demonstrates that the abstract alone is often used to assess the value of an article.

The introduction of a scientific paper presents the research question in the context of what is already known about the topic, in order to identify why the question being studied is of interest to the scientific community, and what gap in knowledge the study aims to fill ( 15 ). The introduction identifies the study’s purpose and scope, briefly describes the general methods of investigation, and outlines the hypothesis and predictions ( 15 ). The peer reviewer determines whether the introduction provides sufficient background information on the research topic, and ensures that the research question and hypothesis are clearly identifiable.

The methods section describes the experimental procedures, and explains why each experiment was conducted. The methods section also includes the equipment and reagents used in the investigation. The methods section should be detailed enough that it can be used it to repeat the experiment ( 15 ). Methods are written in the past tense and in the active voice. The peer reviewer assesses whether the appropriate methods were used to answer the research question, and if they were written with sufficient detail. If information is missing from the methods section, it is the peer reviewer’s job to identify what details need to be added.

The results section is where the outcomes of the experiment and trends in the data are explained without judgement, bias or interpretation ( 15 ). This section can include statistical tests performed on the data, as well as figures and tables in addition to the text. The peer reviewer ensures that the results are described with sufficient detail, and determines their credibility. Reviewers also confirm that the text is consistent with the information presented in tables and figures, and that all figures and tables included are important and relevant ( 15 ). The peer reviewer will also make sure that table and figure captions are appropriate both contextually and in length, and that tables and figures present the data accurately.

The discussion section is where the data is analyzed. Here, the results are interpreted and related to past studies ( 15 ). The discussion describes the meaning and significance of the results in terms of the research question and hypothesis, and states whether the hypothesis was supported or rejected. This section may also provide possible explanations for unusual results and suggestions for future research ( 15 ). The discussion should end with a conclusions section that summarizes the major findings of the investigation. The peer reviewer determines whether the discussion is clear and focused, and whether the conclusions are an appropriate interpretation of the results. Reviewers also ensure that the discussion addresses the limitations of the study, any anomalies in the results, the relationship of the study to previous research, and the theoretical implications and practical applications of the study.

The references are found at the end of the paper, and list all of the information sources cited in the text to describe the background, methods, and/or interpret results. Depending on the citation method used, the references are listed in alphabetical order according to author last name, or numbered according to the order in which they appear in the paper. The peer reviewer ensures that references are used appropriately, cited accurately, formatted correctly, and that none are missing.

Finally, the peer reviewer determines whether the paper is clearly written and if the content seems logical. After thoroughly reading through the entire manuscript, they determine whether it meets the journal’s standards for publication,

and whether it falls within the top 25% of papers in its field ( 16 ) to determine priority for publication. An overview of what a peer reviewer looks for when evaluating a manuscript, in order of importance, is presented in Figure 2 .

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How a peer review evaluates a manuscript

To increase the chance of success in the peer review process, the author must ensure that the paper fully complies with the journal guidelines before submission. The author must also be open to criticism and suggested revisions, and learn from mistakes made in previous submissions.


The peer review process is generally conducted in one of three ways: open review, single-blind review, or double-blind review. In an open review, both the author of the paper and the peer reviewer know one another’s identity. Alternatively, in single-blind review, the reviewer’s identity is kept private, but the author’s identity is revealed to the reviewer. In double-blind review, the identities of both the reviewer and author are kept anonymous. Open peer review is advantageous in that it prevents the reviewer from leaving malicious comments, being careless, or procrastinating completion of the review ( 2 ). It encourages reviewers to be open and honest without being disrespectful. Open reviewing also discourages plagiarism amongst authors ( 2 ). On the other hand, open peer review can also prevent reviewers from being honest for fear of developing bad rapport with the author. The reviewer may withhold or tone down their criticisms in order to be polite ( 2 ). This is especially true when younger reviewers are given a more esteemed author’s work, in which case the reviewer may be hesitant to provide criticism for fear that it will damper their relationship with a superior ( 2 ). According to the Sense About Science survey, editors find that completely open reviewing decreases the number of people willing to participate, and leads to reviews of little value ( 12 ). In the aforementioned study by the PRC, only 23% of authors surveyed had experience with open peer review ( 7 ).

Single-blind peer review is by far the most common. In the PRC study, 85% of authors surveyed had experience with single-blind peer review ( 7 ). This method is advantageous as the reviewer is more likely to provide honest feedback when their identity is concealed ( 2 ). This allows the reviewer to make independent decisions without the influence of the author ( 2 ). The main disadvantage of reviewer anonymity, however, is that reviewers who receive manuscripts on subjects similar to their own research may be tempted to delay completing the review in order to publish their own data first ( 2 ).

Double-blind peer review is advantageous as it prevents the reviewer from being biased against the author based on their country of origin or previous work ( 2 ). This allows the paper to be judged based on the quality of the content, rather than the reputation of the author. The Sense About Science survey indicates that 76% of researchers think double-blind peer review is a good idea ( 12 ), and the PRC survey indicates that 45% of authors have had experience with double-blind peer review ( 7 ). The disadvantage of double-blind peer review is that, especially in niche areas of research, it can sometimes be easy for the reviewer to determine the identity of the author based on writing style, subject matter or self-citation, and thus, impart bias ( 2 ).

Masking the author’s identity from peer reviewers, as is the case in double-blind review, is generally thought to minimize bias and maintain review quality. A study by Justice et al. in 1998 investigated whether masking author identity affected the quality of the review ( 17 ). One hundred and eighteen manuscripts were randomized; 26 were peer reviewed as normal, and 92 were moved into the ‘intervention’ arm, where editor quality assessments were completed for 77 manuscripts and author quality assessments were completed for 40 manuscripts ( 17 ). There was no perceived difference in quality between the masked and unmasked reviews. Additionally, the masking itself was often unsuccessful, especially with well-known authors ( 17 ). However, a previous study conducted by McNutt et al. had different results ( 18 ). In this case, blinding was successful 73% of the time, and they found that when author identity was masked, the quality of review was slightly higher ( 18 ). Although Justice et al. argued that this difference was too small to be consequential, their study targeted only biomedical journals, and the results cannot be generalized to journals of a different subject matter ( 17 ). Additionally, there were problems masking the identities of well-known authors, introducing a flaw in the methods. Regardless, Justice et al. concluded that masking author identity from reviewers may not improve review quality ( 17 ).

In addition to open, single-blind and double-blind peer review, there are two experimental forms of peer review. In some cases, following publication, papers may be subjected to post-publication peer review. As many papers are now published online, the scientific community has the opportunity to comment on these papers, engage in online discussions and post a formal review. For example, online publishers PLOS and BioMed Central have enabled scientists to post comments on published papers if they are registered users of the site ( 10 ). Philica is another journal launched with this experimental form of peer review. Only 8% of authors surveyed in the PRC study had experience with post-publication review ( 7 ). Another experimental form of peer review called Dynamic Peer Review has also emerged. Dynamic peer review is conducted on websites such as Naboj, which allow scientists to conduct peer reviews on articles in the preprint media ( 19 ). The peer review is conducted on repositories and is a continuous process, which allows the public to see both the article and the reviews as the article is being developed ( 19 ). Dynamic peer review helps prevent plagiarism as the scientific community will already be familiar with the work before the peer reviewed version appears in print ( 19 ). Dynamic review also reduces the time lag between manuscript submission and publishing. An example of a preprint server is the ‘arXiv’ developed by Paul Ginsparg in 1991, which is used primarily by physicists ( 19 ). These alternative forms of peer review are still un-established and experimental. Traditional peer review is time-tested and still highly utilized. All methods of peer review have their advantages and deficiencies, and all are prone to error.


Open access (OA) journals are becoming increasingly popular as they allow the potential for widespread distribution of publications in a timely manner ( 20 ). Nevertheless, there can be issues regarding the peer review process of open access journals. In a study published in Science in 2013, John Bohannon submitted 304 slightly different versions of a fictional scientific paper (written by a fake author, working out of a non-existent institution) to a selected group of OA journals. This study was performed in order to determine whether papers submitted to OA journals are properly reviewed before publication in comparison to subscription-based journals. The journals in this study were selected from the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and Biall’s List, a list of journals which are potentially predatory, and all required a fee for publishing ( 21 ). Of the 304 journals, 157 accepted a fake paper, suggesting that acceptance was based on financial interest rather than the quality of article itself, while 98 journals promptly rejected the fakes ( 21 ). Although this study highlights useful information on the problems associated with lower quality publishers that do not have an effective peer review system in place, the article also generalizes the study results to all OA journals, which can be detrimental to the general perception of OA journals. There were two limitations of the study that made it impossible to accurately determine the relationship between peer review and OA journals: 1) there was no control group (subscription-based journals), and 2) the fake papers were sent to a non-randomized selection of journals, resulting in bias.


Based on a recent survey, the average acceptance rate for papers submitted to scientific journals is about 50% ( 7 ). Twenty percent of the submitted manuscripts that are not accepted are rejected prior to review, and 30% are rejected following review ( 7 ). Of the 50% accepted, 41% are accepted with the condition of revision, while only 9% are accepted without the request for revision ( 7 ).


Based on a recent survey by the PRC, 64% of academics are satisfied with the current system of peer review, and only 12% claimed to be ‘dissatisfied’ ( 7 ). The large majority, 85%, agreed with the statement that ‘scientific communication is greatly helped by peer review’ ( 7 ). There was a similarly high level of support (83%) for the idea that peer review ‘provides control in scientific communication’ ( 7 ).


The following are ten tips on how to be an effective peer reviewer as indicated by Brian Lucey, an expert on the subject ( 22 ):

1) Be professional

Peer review is a mutual responsibility among fellow scientists, and scientists are expected, as part of the academic community, to take part in peer review. If one is to expect others to review their work, they should commit to reviewing the work of others as well, and put effort into it.

2) Be pleasant

If the paper is of low quality, suggest that it be rejected, but do not leave ad hominem comments. There is no benefit to being ruthless.

3) Read the invite

When emailing a scientist to ask them to conduct a peer review, the majority of journals will provide a link to either accept or reject. Do not respond to the email, respond to the link.

4) Be helpful

Suggest how the authors can overcome the shortcomings in their paper. A review should guide the author on what is good and what needs work from the reviewer’s perspective.

5) Be scientific

The peer reviewer plays the role of a scientific peer, not an editor for proofreading or decision-making. Don’t fill a review with comments on editorial and typographic issues. Instead, focus on adding value with scientific knowledge and commenting on the credibility of the research conducted and conclusions drawn. If the paper has a lot of typographical errors, suggest that it be professionally proof edited as part of the review.

6) Be timely

Stick to the timeline given when conducting a peer review. Editors track who is reviewing what and when and will know if someone is late on completing a review. It is important to be timely both out of respect for the journal and the author, as well as to not develop a reputation of being late for review deadlines.

7) Be realistic

The peer reviewer must be realistic about the work presented, the changes they suggest and their role. Peer reviewers may set the bar too high for the paper they are editing by proposing changes that are too ambitious and editors must override them.

8) Be empathetic

Ensure that the review is scientific, helpful and courteous. Be sensitive and respectful with word choice and tone in a review.

Remember that both specialists and generalists can provide valuable insight when peer reviewing. Editors will try to get both specialised and general reviewers for any particular paper to allow for different perspectives. If someone is asked to review, the editor has determined they have a valid and useful role to play, even if the paper is not in their area of expertise.

10) Be organised

A review requires structure and logical flow. A reviewer should proofread their review before submitting it for structural, grammatical and spelling errors as well as for clarity. Most publishers provide short guides on structuring a peer review on their website. Begin with an overview of the proposed improvements; then provide feedback on the paper structure, the quality of data sources and methods of investigation used, the logical flow of argument, and the validity of conclusions drawn. Then provide feedback on style, voice and lexical concerns, with suggestions on how to improve.

In addition, the American Physiology Society (APS) recommends in its Peer Review 101 Handout that peer reviewers should put themselves in both the editor’s and author’s shoes to ensure that they provide what both the editor and the author need and expect ( 11 ). To please the editor, the reviewer should ensure that the peer review is completed on time, and that it provides clear explanations to back up recommendations. To be helpful to the author, the reviewer must ensure that their feedback is constructive. It is suggested that the reviewer take time to think about the paper; they should read it once, wait at least a day, and then re-read it before writing the review ( 11 ). The APS also suggests that Graduate students and researchers pay attention to how peer reviewers edit their work, as well as to what edits they find helpful, in order to learn how to peer review effectively ( 11 ). Additionally, it is suggested that Graduate students practice reviewing by editing their peers’ papers and asking a faculty member for feedback on their efforts. It is recommended that young scientists offer to peer review as often as possible in order to become skilled at the process ( 11 ). The majority of students, fellows and trainees do not get formal training in peer review, but rather learn by observing their mentors. According to the APS, one acquires experience through networking and referrals, and should therefore try to strengthen relationships with journal editors by offering to review manuscripts ( 11 ). The APS also suggests that experienced reviewers provide constructive feedback to students and junior colleagues on their peer review efforts, and encourages them to peer review to demonstrate the importance of this process in improving science ( 11 ).

The peer reviewer should only comment on areas of the manuscript that they are knowledgeable about ( 23 ). If there is any section of the manuscript they feel they are not qualified to review, they should mention this in their comments and not provide further feedback on that section. The peer reviewer is not permitted to share any part of the manuscript with a colleague (even if they may be more knowledgeable in the subject matter) without first obtaining permission from the editor ( 23 ). If a peer reviewer comes across something they are unsure of in the paper, they can consult the literature to try and gain insight. It is important for scientists to remember that if a paper can be improved by the expertise of one of their colleagues, the journal must be informed of the colleague’s help, and approval must be obtained for their colleague to read the protected document. Additionally, the colleague must be identified in the confidential comments to the editor, in order to ensure that he/she is appropriately credited for any contributions ( 23 ). It is the job of the reviewer to make sure that the colleague assisting is aware of the confidentiality of the peer review process ( 23 ). Once the review is complete, the manuscript must be destroyed and cannot be saved electronically by the reviewers ( 23 ).


When performing a peer review, there are some common scientific errors to look out for. Most of these errors are violations of logic and common sense: these may include contradicting statements, unwarranted conclusions, suggestion of causation when there is only support for correlation, inappropriate extrapolation, circular reasoning, or pursuit of a trivial question ( 24 ). It is also common for authors to suggest that two variables are different because the effects of one variable are statistically significant while the effects of the other variable are not, rather than directly comparing the two variables ( 24 ). Authors sometimes oversee a confounding variable and do not control for it, or forget to include important details on how their experiments were controlled or the physical state of the organisms studied ( 24 ). Another common fault is the author’s failure to define terms or use words with precision, as these practices can mislead readers ( 24 ). Jargon and/or misused terms can be a serious problem in papers. Inaccurate statements about specific citations are also a common occurrence ( 24 ). Additionally, many studies produce knowledge that can be applied to areas of science outside the scope of the original study, therefore it is better for reviewers to look at the novelty of the idea, conclusions, data, and methodology, rather than scrutinize whether or not the paper answered the specific question at hand ( 24 ). Although it is important to recognize these points, when performing a review it is generally better practice for the peer reviewer to not focus on a checklist of things that could be wrong, but rather carefully identify the problems specific to each paper and continuously ask themselves if anything is missing ( 24 ). An extremely detailed description of how to conduct peer review effectively is presented in the paper How I Review an Original Scientific Article written by Frederic G. Hoppin, Jr. It can be accessed through the American Physiological Society website under the Peer Review Resources section.


A major criticism of peer review is that there is little evidence that the process actually works, that it is actually an effective screen for good quality scientific work, and that it actually improves the quality of scientific literature. As a 2002 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded, ‘Editorial peer review, although widely used, is largely untested and its effects are uncertain’ ( 25 ). Critics also argue that peer review is not effective at detecting errors. Highlighting this point, an experiment by Godlee et al. published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) inserted eight deliberate errors into a paper that was nearly ready for publication, and then sent the paper to 420 potential reviewers ( 7 ). Of the 420 reviewers that received the paper, 221 (53%) responded, the average number of errors spotted by reviewers was two, no reviewer spotted more than five errors, and 35 reviewers (16%) did not spot any.

Another criticism of peer review is that the process is not conducted thoroughly by scientific conferences with the goal of obtaining large numbers of submitted papers. Such conferences often accept any paper sent in, regardless of its credibility or the prevalence of errors, because the more papers they accept, the more money they can make from author registration fees ( 26 ). This misconduct was exposed in 2014 by three MIT graduate students by the names of Jeremy Stribling, Dan Aguayo and Maxwell Krohn, who developed a simple computer program called SCIgen that generates nonsense papers and presents them as scientific papers ( 26 ). Subsequently, a nonsense SCIgen paper submitted to a conference was promptly accepted. Nature recently reported that French researcher Cyril Labbé discovered that sixteen SCIgen nonsense papers had been used by the German academic publisher Springer ( 26 ). Over 100 nonsense papers generated by SCIgen were published by the US Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) ( 26 ). Both organisations have been working to remove the papers. Labbé developed a program to detect SCIgen papers and has made it freely available to ensure publishers and conference organizers do not accept nonsense work in the future. It is available at this link: ( 26 ).

Additionally, peer review is often criticized for being unable to accurately detect plagiarism. However, many believe that detecting plagiarism cannot practically be included as a component of peer review. As explained by Alice Tuff, development manager at Sense About Science, ‘The vast majority of authors and reviewers think peer review should detect plagiarism (81%) but only a minority (38%) think it is capable. The academic time involved in detecting plagiarism through peer review would cause the system to grind to a halt’ ( 27 ). Publishing house Elsevier began developing electronic plagiarism tools with the help of journal editors in 2009 to help improve this issue ( 27 ).

It has also been argued that peer review has lowered research quality by limiting creativity amongst researchers. Proponents of this view claim that peer review has repressed scientists from pursuing innovative research ideas and bold research questions that have the potential to make major advances and paradigm shifts in the field, as they believe that this work will likely be rejected by their peers upon review ( 28 ). Indeed, in some cases peer review may result in rejection of innovative research, as some studies may not seem particularly strong initially, yet may be capable of yielding very interesting and useful developments when examined under different circumstances, or in the light of new information ( 28 ). Scientists that do not believe in peer review argue that the process stifles the development of ingenious ideas, and thus the release of fresh knowledge and new developments into the scientific community.

Another issue that peer review is criticized for, is that there are a limited number of people that are competent to conduct peer review compared to the vast number of papers that need reviewing. An enormous number of papers published (1.3 million papers in 23,750 journals in 2006), but the number of competent peer reviewers available could not have reviewed them all ( 29 ). Thus, people who lack the required expertise to analyze the quality of a research paper are conducting reviews, and weak papers are being accepted as a result. It is now possible to publish any paper in an obscure journal that claims to be peer-reviewed, though the paper or journal itself could be substandard ( 29 ). On a similar note, the US National Library of Medicine indexes 39 journals that specialize in alternative medicine, and though they all identify themselves as “peer-reviewed”, they rarely publish any high quality research ( 29 ). This highlights the fact that peer review of more controversial or specialized work is typically performed by people who are interested and hold similar views or opinions as the author, which can cause bias in their review. For instance, a paper on homeopathy is likely to be reviewed by fellow practicing homeopaths, and thus is likely to be accepted as credible, though other scientists may find the paper to be nonsense ( 29 ). In some cases, papers are initially published, but their credibility is challenged at a later date and they are subsequently retracted. Retraction Watch is a website dedicated to revealing papers that have been retracted after publishing, potentially due to improper peer review ( 30 ).

Additionally, despite its many positive outcomes, peer review is also criticized for being a delay to the dissemination of new knowledge into the scientific community, and as an unpaid-activity that takes scientists’ time away from activities that they would otherwise prioritize, such as research and teaching, for which they are paid ( 31 ). As described by Eva Amsen, Outreach Director for F1000Research, peer review was originally developed as a means of helping editors choose which papers to publish when journals had to limit the number of papers they could print in one issue ( 32 ). However, nowadays most journals are available online, either exclusively or in addition to print, and many journals have very limited printing runs ( 32 ). Since there are no longer page limits to journals, any good work can and should be published. Consequently, being selective for the purpose of saving space in a journal is no longer a valid excuse that peer reviewers can use to reject a paper ( 32 ). However, some reviewers have used this excuse when they have personal ulterior motives, such as getting their own research published first.


F1000Research was launched in January 2013 by Faculty of 1000 as an open access journal that immediately publishes papers (after an initial check to ensure that the paper is in fact produced by a scientist and has not been plagiarised), and then conducts transparent post-publication peer review ( 32 ). F1000Research aims to prevent delays in new science reaching the academic community that are caused by prolonged publication times ( 32 ). It also aims to make peer reviewing more fair by eliminating any anonymity, which prevents reviewers from delaying the completion of a review so they can publish their own similar work first ( 32 ). F1000Research offers completely open peer review, where everything is published, including the name of the reviewers, their review reports, and the editorial decision letters ( 32 ).

PeerJ was founded by Jason Hoyt and Peter Binfield in June 2012 as an open access, peer reviewed scholarly journal for the Biological and Medical Sciences ( 33 ). PeerJ selects articles to publish based only on scientific and methodological soundness, not on subjective determinants of ‘impact ’, ‘novelty’ or ‘interest’ ( 34 ). It works on a “lifetime publishing plan” model which charges scientists for publishing plans that give them lifetime rights to publish with PeerJ, rather than charging them per publication ( 34 ). PeerJ also encourages open peer review, and authors are given the option to post the full peer review history of their submission with their published article ( 34 ). PeerJ also offers a pre-print review service called PeerJ Pre-prints, in which paper drafts are reviewed before being sent to PeerJ to publish ( 34 ).

Rubriq is an independent peer review service designed by Shashi Mudunuri and Keith Collier to improve the peer review system ( 35 ). Rubriq is intended to decrease redundancy in the peer review process so that the time lost in redundant reviewing can be put back into research ( 35 ). According to Keith Collier, over 15 million hours are lost each year to redundant peer review, as papers get rejected from one journal and are subsequently submitted to a less prestigious journal where they are reviewed again ( 35 ). Authors often have to submit their manuscript to multiple journals, and are often rejected multiple times before they find the right match. This process could take months or even years ( 35 ). Rubriq makes peer review portable in order to help authors choose the journal that is best suited for their manuscript from the beginning, thus reducing the time before their paper is published ( 35 ). Rubriq operates under an author-pay model, in which the author pays a fee and their manuscript undergoes double-blind peer review by three expert academic reviewers using a standardized scorecard ( 35 ). The majority of the author’s fee goes towards a reviewer honorarium ( 35 ). The papers are also screened for plagiarism using iThenticate ( 35 ). Once the manuscript has been reviewed by the three experts, the most appropriate journal for submission is determined based on the topic and quality of the paper ( 35 ). The paper is returned to the author in 1-2 weeks with the Rubriq Report ( 35 ). The author can then submit their paper to the suggested journal with the Rubriq Report attached. The Rubriq Report will give the journal editors a much stronger incentive to consider the paper as it shows that three experts have recommended the paper to them ( 35 ). Rubriq also has its benefits for reviewers; the Rubriq scorecard gives structure to the peer review process, and thus makes it consistent and efficient, which decreases time and stress for the reviewer. Reviewers also receive feedback on their reviews and most significantly, they are compensated for their time ( 35 ). Journals also benefit, as they receive pre-screened papers, reducing the number of papers sent to their own reviewers, which often end up rejected ( 35 ). This can reduce reviewer fatigue, and allow only higher-quality articles to be sent to their peer reviewers ( 35 ).

According to Eva Amsen, peer review and scientific publishing are moving in a new direction, in which all papers will be posted online, and a post-publication peer review will take place that is independent of specific journal criteria and solely focused on improving paper quality ( 32 ). Journals will then choose papers that they find relevant based on the peer reviews and publish those papers as a collection ( 32 ). In this process, peer review and individual journals are uncoupled ( 32 ). In Keith Collier’s opinion, post-publication peer review is likely to become more prevalent as a complement to pre-publication peer review, but not as a replacement ( 35 ). Post-publication peer review will not serve to identify errors and fraud but will provide an additional measurement of impact ( 35 ). Collier also believes that as journals and publishers consolidate into larger systems, there will be stronger potential for “cascading” and shared peer review ( 35 ).


Peer review has become fundamental in assisting editors in selecting credible, high quality, novel and interesting research papers to publish in scientific journals and to ensure the correction of any errors or issues present in submitted papers. Though the peer review process still has some flaws and deficiencies, a more suitable screening method for scientific papers has not yet been proposed or developed. Researchers have begun and must continue to look for means of addressing the current issues with peer review to ensure that it is a full-proof system that ensures only quality research papers are released into the scientific community.

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Understanding the peer review process

What is peer review a guide for authors.

The peer review process starts once you have submitted your paper to a journal.

After submission, your paper will be sent for assessment by independent experts in your field. The reviewers are asked to judge the validity, significance, and originality of your work.

Below we expand on what peer review is, and how it works.

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What is peer review and why is important.

peer review research paper

Peer review is the independent assessment of your research paper by experts in your field. The purpose of peer review is to evaluate the paper’s quality and suitability for publication.

As well as peer review acting as a form of quality control for academic journals, it is a very useful source of feedback for you. The feedback can be used to improve your paper before it is published.

So at its best, peer review is a collaborative process, where authors engage in a dialogue with peers in their field, and receive constructive support to advance their work.

Use our free guide to discover how you can get the most out of the peer review process.

Why is peer review important?

Peer review is vitally important to uphold the high standards of scholarly communications, and maintain the quality of individual journals. It is also an important support for the researchers who author the papers.

Every journal depends on the hard work of reviewers who are the ones at the forefront of the peer review process. The reviewers are the ones who test and refine each article before publication. Even for very specialist journals, the editor can’t be an expert in the topic of every article submitted. So, the feedback and comments of carefully selected reviewers are an essential guide to inform the editor’s decision on a research paper.

There are also practical reasons why peer review is beneficial to you, the author. The peer review process can alert you to any errors in your work, or gaps in the literature you may have overlooked.

Researchers consistently tell us that their final published article is better than the version they submitted before peer review. 91% of respondents to a  Sense about Science peer review survey  said that their last paper was improved through peer review. A  Taylor & Francis study  supports this, finding that most researchers, across all subject areas, rated the contribution of peer review towards improving their article as 8 or above out of 10.

Read the infographic with information about peer review for journal articles.

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Choose the right journal for your research: Think. Check. Submit

We support Think. Check. Submit. , an initiative launched by a coalition of scholarly communications organizations. It provides the tools to help you choose the right journal for your work.

Think. Check. Submit. was established because there are some journals which do not provide the quality assurance and services that should be delivered by a reputable journal. In particular, many of these journals do not make sure there is thorough peer review or editor feedback process in place.

That means, if you submit to one of these journals, you will not benefit from helpful article feedback from your peers. It may also lead to others being skeptical about the validity of your published results.

You should therefore make sure that you submit your work to a journal you can trust. By using the checklist provided on the Think. Check. Submit. website , you can make an informed choice.

Peer review integrity at Taylor & Francis

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Every full research article published in a Taylor & Francis journal has been through peer review, as outlined in the journal’s aims & scope information. This means that the article’s quality, validity, and relevance has been assessed by independent peers within the research field.

We believe in the integrity of peer review with every journal we publish, ascribing to the following statement:

All published research articles in this journal have undergone rigorous peer review, based on initial editor screening, anonymous refereeing by independent expert referees, and consequent revision by article authors when required.

Different types of peer review

Peer review takes different forms and each type has pros and cons. The type of peer review model used will often vary between journals, even of the same publisher. So, check your chosen journal’s peer-review policy before you submit , to make sure you know what to expect and are comfortable with your paper being reviewed in that way.

Every Taylor & Francis journal publishes a statement describing the type of peer review used by the journal within the aims & scope section on Taylor & Francis Online.

Below we go through the most common types of peer review.

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Common types of peer review

Single-anonymous peer review.

This type of peer review is also called ‘single-blind review’. In this model, the reviewers know that you are the author of the article, but you don’t know the identities of the reviewers.

Single-anonymous review is most common for science and medicine journals.

Find out more about the pros and cons of  single-anonymous peer review .

Double-anonymous peer review

In this model, which is also known as ‘double-blind review’, the reviewers don’t know that you are the author of the article. And you don’t know who the reviewers are either. Double-anonymous review is particularly common in humanities and some social sciences’ journals.

Discover more about the pros and cons of  double-anonymous peer review .

If you are submitting your article for double-anonymous peer review, make sure you know  how to make your article anonymous .

Open peer review

There is no one agreed definition of open peer review. In fact,  a recent study  identified 122 different definitions of the term. Typically, it will mean that the reviewers know you are the author and also that their identity will be revealed to you at some point during the review or publication process.

Find out more about  open peer review .

Post-publication peer review

In post-publication peer review models, your paper may still go through one of the other types of peer review first. Alternatively, your paper may be published online almost immediately, after some basic checks. Either way, once it is published, there will then be an opportunity for invited reviewers (or even readers) to add their own comments or reviews.

You can learn about the pros and cons of  post-publication peer review here.

Registered Reports

The  Registered Reports  process splits peer review into two parts.

The first round of peer review takes place after you’ve designed your study, but before you’ve collected or analyzed any data. This allows you to get feedback on both the question you’re looking to answer, and the experiment you’ve designed to test it.

If your manuscript passes peer review, the journal will give you an in-principle acceptance (IPA). This indicates that your article will be published as long as you successfully complete your study according to the pre-registered methods and submit an evidence-based interpretation of the results.

Explore Registered Reports at Taylor & Francis .

F1000 Research: Open and post-publication peer review

F1000Research  is part of the Taylor & Francis Group. It operates an innovative peer review process which is fully transparent and takes place after an article has been published.

How it works

Before publication, authors are asked to  suggest at least five potential reviewers  who are experts in the field. The reviewers also need to be able to provide unbiased reports on the article.

Submitted articles are published rapidly, after passing a series of pre-publication checks that assess, originality, readability, author eligibility, and compliance with F1000Research’s policies and ethical guidelines.

Once the article is published, expert reviewers are formally invited to review.

The peer review process is entirely open and transparent. Each peer review report, plus the approval status selected by the reviewer, is published with the reviewer’s name and affiliation alongside the article.

Authors are encouraged to respond openly to the peer review reports and can publish revised versions of their article if they wish. New versions are clearly linked and easily navigable, so that readers and reviewers can quickly find the latest version of an article.

The article remains published regardless of the reviewers’ reports. Articles that pass peer review are indexed in Scopus, PubMed, Google Scholar and other bibliographic databases.

How our publishing process works for articles

peer review research paper

1. Article submission

Submitting an article is easy with our single-page submission system.

The in-house editorial team carries out a basic check on each submission to ensure that all policies are adhered to.

2. Publication and data deposition

Once the authors have analysed the manuscript, the article (with its associated source data) is published within a week, enabling immediate viewing and caution.

3. Open peer review & user commenting

Expert reviewers are selected and invited. Their reports and names are published alongside the article, together with the authors’ responses and comments from registered users.

4. Article revision

Authors are encouraged to publish revised versions of their article. All versions of an article are linked and independently citable.

Articles that pass peer review are indexed in external databases such as PubMed, Scopus and Google Scholar.

Discover more about how the F1000Research model works .

Get to know the peer review process

Peer review follows a number of steps, beginning with submitting your article to a journal.

Step 1: Editor assessment

When your manuscript arrives at the journal’s editorial office it will receive an initial desk assessment by the journal’s editor or editorial office. They will check that it’s broadly suitable for the journal.

They will ask questions such as:

Is this the right journal for this article?

Does the paper cover a suitable topic according to the journal’s  aims & scope ?

Has the author followed the journal’s guidelines in the  instructions for authors ? They will check that your paper meets the basic requirements of the journal, such as word count, language clarity, and format.

Has the author included everything that’s needed for peer review? They will check that there is an abstract, author affiliation details, any figures, and research-funder information.

Does it make a significant contribution to the existing literature?

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If your article doesn’t pass these initial checks the editor might reject the article immediately. This is known as a ‘desk reject’ and it is a decision made at the editor’s discretion, based on their substantial experience and subject expertise. By having this initial screening in place, it can enable a quick decision if your manuscript isn’t suitable for the journal. This means you can submit your article to another journal quickly.

If your article does pass the initial assessment, it will move to the next stage, and into peer review.

“As an editor, when you first get a submission, at one level you’re simply filtering. A fairly small proportion do not get sent out by me for review. Sometimes they simply fall outside the scope of the journal.”

– Michael Reiss, Founding Editor of Sex Education

Step 2: First round of peer review

Next, the editor will find and contact other researchers who are experts in your field, and will ask them to review the paper. A minimum of two independent reviewers is normally required for every research article. The aims and scope of each journal will outline their peer review policy in detail.

The reviewers will be asked to read and comment on your article. They may also be invited to advise the editor whether your article is suitable for publication in that journal.

So, what are the reviewers looking for?

This depends on the subject area, but they will be checking that:

Your work is original or new.

The study design and methodology are appropriate and described so that others could replicate what you have done.

You’ve engaged with all the relevant current scholarship.

The results are appropriately and clearly presented.

Your conclusions are reliable, significant, and supported by the research.

The paper fits the scope of the journal.

The work is of a high enough standard to be published in the journal.

If you have not already  shared your research data publicly , peer reviewers may request to see your datasets, to support validation of the results in your article.

Once the editor has received and considered the reviewer reports, as well as making their own assessment of your work, they will let you know their decision. The reviewer reports will be shared with you, along with any additional guidance from the editor.

If you get a straight acceptance, congratulations, your article is ready to move to publication. But, please note, that this isn’t common. Very often, you will need to revise your article and resubmit it. Or it may be that the editor decides your paper needs to be rejected by that journal.

Please note that the final editorial decision on a paper and the choice of who to invite to review is always the editor’s decision. For further details on this, please see  our peer review appeals and complaints policy.

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Step 3: Revise and resubmit

It is very common for the editor and reviewers to have suggestions about how you can improve your paper before it is ready to be published. They might have only a few straightforward recommendations (‘minor amendments’) or require more substantial changes before your paper will be accepted for publication (‘major amendments’). Authors often tell us that the reviewers’ comments can be extremely helpful, to make sure that their article is of a high quality.

During this stage of the process you will have time to amend your article based on the reviewers’ comments, resubmitting it with any or all changes made. Make sure you know how to respond to reviewer comments, we cover this in the next section.

Once you resubmit your manuscript the editor will look through the revisions. They will often send it out for a second round of peer review, asking the reviewers to assess how you’ve responded to their comments.

After this, you may be asked to make further revisions, or the paper might be rejected if the editor thinks that the changes you’ve made are not adequate. However, if your revisions have now brought the paper up to the standard required by that journal, it then moves to the next stage.

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If you do not intend to make the revisions suggested by the journal and resubmit your paper for consideration, please make sure you formally withdraw your paper from consideration by the journal before you submit elsewhere.

Make sure you resubmit

If you have not already shared your research data publicly , peer reviewers may request to see your datasets to support the validation of the results in your article.

Step 4: Accepted

And that’s it, you’ve made it through peer review. The next step is  production

How long does peer review take?

Editorial teams work very hard to progress papers through peer review as quickly as possible. But it is important to be aware that this part of the process can take time.

The first stage is for the editor to find suitably qualified expert reviewers who are available. Given the competing demands of research life, nobody can agree to every review request they receive. It’s therefore not uncommon for a paper to go through several cycles of requests before the editor finds reviewers who are both willing and able to accept.

Then, the reviewers who do accept the request, have to find time alongside their own research, teaching, and writing, to give your paper thorough consideration.

Please do keep this in mind if you don’t receive a decision on your paper as quickly as you would like. If you’ve submitted your paper via an online system, you can use it to track the progress of your paper through peer review. Otherwise, if you need an update on the status of your paper, please get in touch with the editor.

Many journals publish key dates alongside new articles, including when the paper was submitted, accepted, and published online. While you’re at the stage of choosing a journal to submit to, take a look at these dates for a range of recent articles published in the journals you’re considering. While each article will have a slightly different timeline, this may help you to get an idea of how long publication may take.

A 360⁰ view of peer review

peer review research paper

Peer review is a process that involves various players – the author, the reviewer and the editor to name a few. And depending on which of these hats you have on, the process can look quite different.

To help you uncover the 360⁰ peer review view,  read these interviews  with an editor, author, and reviewer.

How to respond to reviewer comments

If the editor asks you to revise your article, you will be given time to make the required changes before resubmitting.

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When you receive the reviewers’ comments, try not to take personal offence to any criticism of your article (even though that can be hard).

Some researchers find it helpful to put the reviewer report to one side for a few days after they’ve read it for the first time. Once you have had chance to digest the idea that your article requires further work, you can more easily address the reviewer comments objectively.

When you come back to the reviewer report, take time to read through the editor and reviewers’ advice carefully, deciding what changes you will make to your article in response. Taking their points on board will make sure your final article is as robust and impactful as possible.

Please make sure that you address all the reviewer and editor comments in your revisions.

It may be helpful to resubmit your article along with a two-column grid outlining how you’ve revised your manuscript. On one side of the grid list each of the reviewers’ comments and opposite them detail the alterations you’ve made in response. This method can help you to order your thoughts, and clearly demonstrate to the editor and reviewers that you’ve considered all of their feedback.

If there are any review comments which you don’t understand or don’t know how to respond to, please get in touch with the journal’s editor and ask for their advice.

What if you don’t agree with the reviewers’ comments?

If there’s a review comment that you don’t agree with, it is important that you don’t ignore it. Instead, include an explanation of why you haven’t made that change with your resubmission. The editor can then make an assessment and include your explanation when the amended article is sent back to the reviewers.

You are entitled to defend your position but, when you do, make sure that the tone of your explanation is assertive and persuasive, rather than defensive or aggressive.

“Where possible, a little constructive advice on how to make use of the views of the referees can make all the difference, and the editor has the responsibility of deciding when and how to do this.”

– Gary McCulloch, Editor, British Journal of Educational Studies

What if my paper is rejected?

Nobody enjoys having their paper rejected by a journal, but it is a fact of academic life. It happens to almost all researchers at some point in their career. So, it is important not to let the experience knock you back. Instead, try to use it as a valuable learning opportunity.

Take time to understand why your paper has been rejected

If a journal rejects your manuscript, it may be for one of many reasons. Make sure that you understand why your paper has been rejected so that you can learn from the experience. This is especially important if you are intending to submit the same article to a different journal.

Are there fundamental changes that need to be made before the paper is ready to be published, or was this simply a case of submitting to the wrong journal? If you are unsure why your article has been rejected, then please contact the journal’s editor for advice.

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Some of the common reasons manuscripts are rejected

The author has submitted their paper to the wrong journal: it doesn’t fit the  aims & scope  or fails to engage with issues addressed by the journal.

The manuscript is not a true journal article, for instance it is too journalistic or clearly a thesis chapter.

The manuscript is too long or too short.

There is poor regard of the journal’s conventions, or for academic writing in general.

Poor style, grammar, punctuation or English throughout the manuscript. Get  English language editing  assistance.

The manuscript does not make any new contribution to the subject.

The research has not been properly contextualized.

There is a poor theoretical framework used. There are  actio nable recommendations to improve your manuscript .

The manuscript is poorly presented.

The manuscript is libelous or unethical.

Carefully consider where to submit next

When you made your original submission, you will probably have had a shortlist of journals you were considering. Return to that list but, before you move to your second choice, you may wish to assess whether any feedback you’ve received during peer review has changed your opinion. Your article may also be quite different if it has been through any rounds of revision. It can be helpful at this stage to re-read the  aims & scope  statements of your original shortlisted journals.

Once you have selected which journal to submit to next, make sure that you read through its information for authors and reformat your article to fit its requirements. Again, it is important to use the feedback from the peer review process to your advantage as you rewrite and reformat the manuscript.

Is ‘transferring’ an option?

A growing number of publishers offer a  transfer or cascade service  to authors when their paper is rejected. This process is designed for papers which aren’t suitable for the journal they were originally submitted to.

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If your article falls into this category then one or more alternative journals from the same publisher will be suggested. You will have the option either to submit to one of those suggested journals for review or to withdraw your article.

If you choose to transfer your article this will usually save you time. You won’t need to enter all of the details into a new submission system. Once you’ve made any changes to your paper, bearing in mind previous editor or reviewer comments, the article will be submitted to the new journal on your behalf.

We have some more information about  article transfers, and also some FAQs about the Taylor & Francis transfer process.

Why you should become a peer reviewer

When you’re not in the middle of submitting or revising your own article, you should consider becoming a reviewer yourself.

There are many demands on a researcher’s time, so it is a legitimate question to ask why some of that precious time should be spent reviewing someone else’s work. How does being a reviewer help you in your career? Here are some of the benefits.

Keep up with the latest thinking As a reviewer you get an early view of the exciting new research being done in your field. Not only that, peer review gives you a role in helping to evaluate and improve this new work.

Improve your own writing Carefully reviewing articles written by other researchers can give you an insight into how you can make your own work better. Unlike when you are reading articles as part of your research, the process of reviewing encourages you to think critically about what makes an article good (or not so good). This could be related to writing style, presentation, or the clarity of explanations.

Boost your career While a lot of reviewing is anonymous, there are schemes to recognize the important contribution of reviewers. You can also include reviewing work on your resume. Your work as a reviewer will be of interest to appointment or promotion committees who are looking for evidence of service to the profession.

Become part of a journal’s community Many journals act as the center of a network of researchers who are in conversation about key themes and developments in the field. Becoming a reviewer is a great way to get involved with that group. This can give you the opportunity to build new connections for future collaborations. Being a regular reviewer may also be the first step to becoming a member of the journal’s editorial board.

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Your research community needs you

Of course, being a reviewer is not just about the benefits it can bring you. The  Taylor & Francis peer review survey  found that these are the top 3 reasons why researchers choose to review:

Being an active member of the academic community Peer review is the bedrock of academic publishing. The work of reviewers is essential in helping every piece of research to become as good as it can be. By being a reviewer, you will play a vital part in advancing the research area that you care about.

Reciprocating the benefit Researchers regularly talk about the benefits to their own work from being reviewed by others. Gratitude to the reviewers who have improved your work is a great motivation to make one’s own contribution of service to the community.

Enjoying being able to help improve papers Reviewing is often anonymous, with only the editor knowing the important contribution you’ve made. However, many reviewers attest that it is work that makes them feel good, knowing that they have been able to support a fellow researcher.

How to be an effective peer reviewer

Our popular  guide to becoming a peer reviewer  covers everything you need to know to get started, including:

How to become a peer reviewer

Writing review reports: step-by-step

Ethical guidelines for peer reviewers

Reviewer recognition

Read the  Taylor & Francis reviewer guidelines .

“Reviewers are the lifeblood of any journal”

– Mike J. Smith, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Maps

Further reading

We hope you’ve found this short introduction to peer review helpful. For further useful advice check out the following resources.

Further resources

Cover of Article submission and peer review eBook

Peer Review: the nuts and bolts A guide to peer review written by early career researchers, for early career researchers and published by Sense about Science.

A guide to becoming a peer reviewer An overview of what’s involved in becoming a reviewer for a Taylor & Francis journal.

Ethical guidelines for peer reviewer Produced by COPE, the Committee on Publication Ethics, setting out the standards all peer reviewers should follow.

Using peer review effectively: quick tips Advice available to staff and students at institutions with a Vitae membership.

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Insights topic: Peer review

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Tips on how to become a peer reviewer

Behind the scenes of peer review: meet the taylor & francis editorial office team.

peer review research paper

What is peer review?

From a publisher’s perspective, peer review functions as a filter for content, directing better quality articles to better quality journals and so creating journal brands.

Running articles through the process of peer review adds value to them. For this reason publishers need to make sure that peer review is robust.

Editor Feedback

"Pointing out the specifics about flaws in the paper’s structure is paramount. Are methods valid, is data clearly presented, and are conclusions supported by data?” (Editor feedback)

“If an editor can read your comments and understand clearly the basis for your recommendation, then you have written a helpful review.” (Editor feedback)

Principles of Peer Review

Peer Review at Its Best

What peer review does best is improve the quality of published papers by motivating authors to submit good quality work – and helping to improve that work through the peer review process. 

In fact, 90% of researchers feel that peer review improves the quality of their published paper (University of Tennessee and CIBER Research Ltd, 2013).

What the Critics Say

The peer review system is not without criticism. Studies show that even after peer review, some articles still contain inaccuracies and demonstrate that most rejected papers will go on to be published somewhere else.

However, these criticisms should be understood within the context of peer review as a human activity. The occasional errors of peer review are not reasons for abandoning the process altogether – the mistakes would be worse without it.

Improving Effectiveness

Some of the ways in which Wiley is seeking to improve the efficiency of the process, include:

  • Reducing the amount of repeat reviewing by innovating around transferable peer review
  • Providing training and best practice guidance to peer reviewers
  • Improving recognition of the contribution made by reviewers

Visit our Peer Review Process and Types of Peer Review pages for additional detailed information on peer review.

Transparency in Peer Review

Wiley is committed to increasing transparency in peer review, increasing accountability for the peer review process and giving recognition to the work of peer reviewers and editors. We are also actively exploring other peer review models to give researchers the options that suit them and their communities.

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  • What Is Peer Review? | Types & Examples

What Is Peer Review? | Types & Examples

Published on December 17, 2021 by Tegan George . Revised on June 22, 2023.

Peer review, sometimes referred to as refereeing , is the process of evaluating submissions to an academic journal. Using strict criteria, a panel of reviewers in the same subject area decides whether to accept each submission for publication.

Peer-reviewed articles are considered a highly credible source due to the stringent process they go through before publication.

There are various types of peer review. The main difference between them is to what extent the authors, reviewers, and editors know each other’s identities. The most common types are:

  • Single-blind review
  • Double-blind review
  • Triple-blind review

Collaborative review

Open review.

Relatedly, peer assessment is a process where your peers provide you with feedback on something you’ve written, based on a set of criteria or benchmarks from an instructor. They then give constructive feedback, compliments, or guidance to help you improve your draft.

Table of contents

What is the purpose of peer review, types of peer review, the peer review process, providing feedback to your peers, peer review example, advantages of peer review, criticisms of peer review, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about peer reviews.

Many academic fields use peer review, largely to determine whether a manuscript is suitable for publication. Peer review enhances the credibility of the manuscript. For this reason, academic journals are among the most credible sources you can refer to.

However, peer review is also common in non-academic settings. The United Nations, the European Union, and many individual nations use peer review to evaluate grant applications. It is also widely used in medical and health-related fields as a teaching or quality-of-care measure.

Peer assessment is often used in the classroom as a pedagogical tool. Both receiving feedback and providing it are thought to enhance the learning process, helping students think critically and collaboratively.

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Depending on the journal, there are several types of peer review.

Single-blind peer review

The most common type of peer review is single-blind (or single anonymized) review . Here, the names of the reviewers are not known by the author.

While this gives the reviewers the ability to give feedback without the possibility of interference from the author, there has been substantial criticism of this method in the last few years. Many argue that single-blind reviewing can lead to poaching or intellectual theft or that anonymized comments cause reviewers to be too harsh.

Double-blind peer review

In double-blind (or double anonymized) review , both the author and the reviewers are anonymous.

Arguments for double-blind review highlight that this mitigates any risk of prejudice on the side of the reviewer, while protecting the nature of the process. In theory, it also leads to manuscripts being published on merit rather than on the reputation of the author.

Triple-blind peer review

While triple-blind (or triple anonymized) review —where the identities of the author, reviewers, and editors are all anonymized—does exist, it is difficult to carry out in practice.

Proponents of adopting triple-blind review for journal submissions argue that it minimizes potential conflicts of interest and biases. However, ensuring anonymity is logistically challenging, and current editing software is not always able to fully anonymize everyone involved in the process.

In collaborative review , authors and reviewers interact with each other directly throughout the process. However, the identity of the reviewer is not known to the author. This gives all parties the opportunity to resolve any inconsistencies or contradictions in real time, and provides them a rich forum for discussion. It can mitigate the need for multiple rounds of editing and minimize back-and-forth.

Collaborative review can be time- and resource-intensive for the journal, however. For these collaborations to occur, there has to be a set system in place, often a technological platform, with staff monitoring and fixing any bugs or glitches.

Lastly, in open review , all parties know each other’s identities throughout the process. Often, open review can also include feedback from a larger audience, such as an online forum, or reviewer feedback included as part of the final published product.

While many argue that greater transparency prevents plagiarism or unnecessary harshness, there is also concern about the quality of future scholarship if reviewers feel they have to censor their comments.

In general, the peer review process includes the following steps:

  • First, the author submits the manuscript to the editor.
  • Reject the manuscript and send it back to the author, or
  • Send it onward to the selected peer reviewer(s)
  • Next, the peer review process occurs. The reviewer provides feedback, addressing any major or minor issues with the manuscript, and gives their advice regarding what edits should be made.
  • Lastly, the edited manuscript is sent back to the author. They input the edits and resubmit it to the editor for publication.

The peer review process

In an effort to be transparent, many journals are now disclosing who reviewed each article in the published product. There are also increasing opportunities for collaboration and feedback, with some journals allowing open communication between reviewers and authors.

It can seem daunting at first to conduct a peer review or peer assessment. If you’re not sure where to start, there are several best practices you can use.

Summarize the argument in your own words

Summarizing the main argument helps the author see how their argument is interpreted by readers, and gives you a jumping-off point for providing feedback. If you’re having trouble doing this, it’s a sign that the argument needs to be clearer, more concise, or worded differently.

If the author sees that you’ve interpreted their argument differently than they intended, they have an opportunity to address any misunderstandings when they get the manuscript back.

Separate your feedback into major and minor issues

It can be challenging to keep feedback organized. One strategy is to start out with any major issues and then flow into the more minor points. It’s often helpful to keep your feedback in a numbered list, so the author has concrete points to refer back to.

Major issues typically consist of any problems with the style, flow, or key points of the manuscript. Minor issues include spelling errors, citation errors, or other smaller, easy-to-apply feedback.

Tip: Try not to focus too much on the minor issues. If the manuscript has a lot of typos, consider making a note that the author should address spelling and grammar issues, rather than going through and fixing each one.

The best feedback you can provide is anything that helps them strengthen their argument or resolve major stylistic issues.

Give the type of feedback that you would like to receive

No one likes being criticized, and it can be difficult to give honest feedback without sounding overly harsh or critical. One strategy you can use here is the “compliment sandwich,” where you “sandwich” your constructive criticism between two compliments.

Be sure you are giving concrete, actionable feedback that will help the author submit a successful final draft. While you shouldn’t tell them exactly what they should do, your feedback should help them resolve any issues they may have overlooked.

As a rule of thumb, your feedback should be:

  • Easy to understand
  • Constructive

What can proofreading do for your paper?

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See editing example

Below is a brief annotated research example. You can view examples of peer feedback by hovering over the highlighted sections.

Influence of phone use on sleep

Studies show that teens from the US are getting less sleep than they were a decade ago (Johnson, 2019) . On average, teens only slept for 6 hours a night in 2021, compared to 8 hours a night in 2011. Johnson mentions several potential causes, such as increased anxiety, changed diets, and increased phone use.

The current study focuses on the effect phone use before bedtime has on the number of hours of sleep teens are getting.

For this study, a sample of 300 teens was recruited using social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. The first week, all teens were allowed to use their phone the way they normally would, in order to obtain a baseline.

The sample was then divided into 3 groups:

  • Group 1 was not allowed to use their phone before bedtime.
  • Group 2 used their phone for 1 hour before bedtime.
  • Group 3 used their phone for 3 hours before bedtime.

All participants were asked to go to sleep around 10 p.m. to control for variation in bedtime . In the morning, their Fitbit showed the number of hours they’d slept. They kept track of these numbers themselves for 1 week.

Two independent t tests were used in order to compare Group 1 and Group 2, and Group 1 and Group 3. The first t test showed no significant difference ( p > .05) between the number of hours for Group 1 ( M = 7.8, SD = 0.6) and Group 2 ( M = 7.0, SD = 0.8). The second t test showed a significant difference ( p < .01) between the average difference for Group 1 ( M = 7.8, SD = 0.6) and Group 3 ( M = 6.1, SD = 1.5).

This shows that teens sleep fewer hours a night if they use their phone for over an hour before bedtime, compared to teens who use their phone for 0 to 1 hours.

Peer review is an established and hallowed process in academia, dating back hundreds of years. It provides various fields of study with metrics, expectations, and guidance to ensure published work is consistent with predetermined standards.

  • Protects the quality of published research

Peer review can stop obviously problematic, falsified, or otherwise untrustworthy research from being published. Any content that raises red flags for reviewers can be closely examined in the review stage, preventing plagiarized or duplicated research from being published.

  • Gives you access to feedback from experts in your field

Peer review represents an excellent opportunity to get feedback from renowned experts in your field and to improve your writing through their feedback and guidance. Experts with knowledge about your subject matter can give you feedback on both style and content, and they may also suggest avenues for further research that you hadn’t yet considered.

  • Helps you identify any weaknesses in your argument

Peer review acts as a first defense, helping you ensure your argument is clear and that there are no gaps, vague terms, or unanswered questions for readers who weren’t involved in the research process. This way, you’ll end up with a more robust, more cohesive article.

While peer review is a widely accepted metric for credibility, it’s not without its drawbacks.

  • Reviewer bias

The more transparent double-blind system is not yet very common, which can lead to bias in reviewing. A common criticism is that an excellent paper by a new researcher may be declined, while an objectively lower-quality submission by an established researcher would be accepted.

  • Delays in publication

The thoroughness of the peer review process can lead to significant delays in publishing time. Research that was current at the time of submission may not be as current by the time it’s published. There is also high risk of publication bias , where journals are more likely to publish studies with positive findings than studies with negative findings.

  • Risk of human error

By its very nature, peer review carries a risk of human error. In particular, falsification often cannot be detected, given that reviewers would have to replicate entire experiments to ensure the validity of results.

If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Normal distribution
  • Measures of central tendency
  • Chi square tests
  • Confidence interval
  • Quartiles & Quantiles
  • Cluster sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Thematic analysis
  • Discourse analysis
  • Cohort study
  • Ethnography

Research bias

  • Implicit bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Conformity bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Availability heuristic
  • Attrition bias
  • Social desirability bias

Peer review is a process of evaluating submissions to an academic journal. Utilizing rigorous criteria, a panel of reviewers in the same subject area decide whether to accept each submission for publication. For this reason, academic journals are often considered among the most credible sources you can use in a research project– provided that the journal itself is trustworthy and well-regarded.

In general, the peer review process follows the following steps: 

  • Reject the manuscript and send it back to author, or 
  • Send it onward to the selected peer reviewer(s) 
  • Next, the peer review process occurs. The reviewer provides feedback, addressing any major or minor issues with the manuscript, and gives their advice regarding what edits should be made. 
  • Lastly, the edited manuscript is sent back to the author. They input the edits, and resubmit it to the editor for publication.

Peer review can stop obviously problematic, falsified, or otherwise untrustworthy research from being published. It also represents an excellent opportunity to get feedback from renowned experts in your field. It acts as a first defense, helping you ensure your argument is clear and that there are no gaps, vague terms, or unanswered questions for readers who weren’t involved in the research process.

Peer-reviewed articles are considered a highly credible source due to this stringent process they go through before publication.

Many academic fields use peer review , largely to determine whether a manuscript is suitable for publication. Peer review enhances the credibility of the published manuscript.

However, peer review is also common in non-academic settings. The United Nations, the European Union, and many individual nations use peer review to evaluate grant applications. It is also widely used in medical and health-related fields as a teaching or quality-of-care measure. 

A credible source should pass the CRAAP test  and follow these guidelines:

  • The information should be up to date and current.
  • The author and publication should be a trusted authority on the subject you are researching.
  • The sources the author cited should be easy to find, clear, and unbiased.
  • For a web source, the URL and layout should signify that it is trustworthy.

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Peer Review

The formula for writing a peer review is an organized process, but it’s easy to do when you follow a few simple steps. Writing a well-structured peer review can help maintain the quality and integrity of the research published in your field. According to Publons, the peer-review process “teaches you how to review a manuscript, spot common flaws in research papers, and improve your own chances of being a successful published author.” Listed below are four key steps to writing a quality peer review.

1. Read the manuscript in its entirety

It is important to read the manuscript through to make sure you are a good fit to assess the research. Also, the first read through is significant because this is when you develop your first impression of the article. Should a reviewer suspect plagiarism of any kind, s/he should contact the journal office at [email protected] .

2. Re-read the manuscript and take notes

After the first read through, you can now go back over the manuscript in more detail. For example, you should ask the following questions about the article to develop useful comments and critiques of the research and presentation of the material:

  • Is this research appropriate for the journal?
  • Does the content have archival value?
  • Is this research important to the field?
  • Does the introduction clearly explain motivation?
  • Is the manuscript clear and balanced?
  • Is the author a source of new information?
  • Does the paper stay focused on its subject?
  • Are the ideas and methods presented worthwhile, new, or creative?
  • Does the paper evaluate the strengths and limitations of the work described?
  • Is the impact of the results clearly stated?
  • Is the paper free from personalities and bias?
  • Is the work of others adequately cited?
  • Are the tables and figures clear, relevant, and correct?
  • Does the author demonstrate knowledge of basic composition skills, including word choice, sentence structure, paragraph development, grammar, punctuation, and spelling?  

Please see SAE’s Reviewer Rubric/Guidelines for a complete list of judgment questions and scoring criteria that will be helpful in determining your recommendation for the paper.

3. Write a clear and constructive review

Comments are mandatory for a peer review . The best way to structure your review is to:

  • Open your review with the most important comments—a summarization of the research and your impression of the research.
  • Make sure to include feedback on the strengths, as well as the weaknesses, of the manuscript. Examples and explanations of those should consume most of the review. Provide details of what the authors need to do to improve the paper. Point out both minor and major flaws and offer solutions.
  • End the review with any additional remarks or suggestions.

There can be various ways to write your review with the structure listed above.

Example of comprehensive review

Writing a bad review for a paper not only frustrates the author but also allows for criticism of the peer-review process. It is important to be fair and give the review the time it deserves. While the comments below may be true, examples are needed to support the claims. What makes the paper of low archival value? What makes the paper great? In addition, there are no comments for suggestions to improve the manuscript, except for improving the grammar in the first example.

Examples of bad reviews:

  • Many grammatical issues. Paper should be corrected for grammar and punctuation. Very interesting and timely subject.
  • This paper does not have a high archival value; should be rejected.
  • Great paper; recommend acceptance.

4. Make a recommendation

The last step for a peer reviewer is making a recommendation of either accept, reject, revise, or transfer. Be sure that your recommendation reflects your review. A recommendation of acceptance upon first review is rare and only to be used if there is no room for improvement.

Additional Reviewer Resources

  • Example Review
  • Advice and Resources for Reviewers from Publons
  • Peer Review Resources from Sense about Science

For questions regarding SAE’s peer-review process or if you would like to be a reviewer, please contact [email protected] .

For questions on how to review in Editorial Manager®, please see Editorial Manager® Guide for Reviewers .

We are developing the new Elsevier website to better serve you. Try the new experience (beta)

What is peer review?

Reviewers play a pivotal role in scholarly publishing. The peer review system exists to validate academic work, helps to improve the quality of published research, and increases networking possibilities within research communities. Despite criticisms, peer review is still the only widely accepted method for research validation and has continued successfully with relatively minor changes for some 350 years.

Elsevier relies on the peer review process to uphold the quality and validity of individual articles and the journals that publish them.

Peer review has been a formal part of scientific communication since the first scientific journals appeared more than 300 years ago. The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society is thought to be the first journal to formalize the peer review process under the editorship of Henry Oldenburg (1618- 1677).

Despite many criticisms about the integrity of peer review, the majority of the research community still believes peer review is the best form of scientific evaluation. This opinion was endorsed by the outcome of a survey Elsevier and Sense About Science conducted in 2009 and has since been further confirmed by other publisher and scholarly organization surveys. Furthermore, a 2015 survey by the Publishing Research Consortium , saw 82 percent of researchers agreeing that “without peer review there is no control in scientific communication.”

To learn more about peer review, visit Elsevier’s free e-learning platform Researcher Academy .

The peer review process

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Types of peer review

Peer review comes in different flavours: you must therefore check which variant is employed by the journal on which you are working so you’re aware of the respective rules. Each system has its own advantages and disadvantages. Often one type of review will be preferred by a subject community but there is an increasing call towards more transparency around the peer review process . In case of questions regarding the peer review model employed by the journal for which you have been invited to review, consult the journal’s homepage or contact the editorial office directly.

Single anonymized review

In this type of review, the names of the reviewers are hidden from the author. This is the traditional method of reviewing and is the most common type by far. Points to consider regarding single anonymizedreview include:

  • Reviewer anonymity allows for impartial decisions – the reviewers should not be influenced by the authors.
  • Authors may be concerned that reviewers in their field could delay publication, giving the reviewers a chance to publish first.
  • Reviewers may use their anonymity as justification for being unnecessarily critical or harsh when commenting on the authors’ work.

Double anonymized review

Both the reviewer and the author are anonymous in this model. Some advantages of this model are listed below.

  • Author anonymity limits reviewer bias, for example based on an author's gender, country of origin, academic status or previous publication history.
  • Articles written by prestigious or renowned authors are considered on the basis of the content of their papers, rather than their reputation.

But bear in mind that despite the above, reviewers can often identify the author through their writing style, subject matter or self-citation – it is exceedingly difficult to guarantee total author anonymity. More information for authors can be found in our double-anonymized peer review guidelines .

Triple anonymized review

With triple anonymized review, reviewers are anonymous and the author's identity is unknown to both the reviewers and the editor. Articles are anonymized at the submission stage and are handled in such a way to minimize any potential bias towards the author(s). However, it should be noted that:

  • the complexities involved with anonymizing articles/authors to this level are considerable
  • as with double anonymized review; there is still a possibility for the editor and/or reviewers to correctly divine the author’s identity from their style, subject matter, citation patterns or a number of other methodologies

Open review

Open peer review is an umbrella term for many different models aiming at greater transparency during and after the peer review process. The most common definition of open review is when both the reviewer and author are known to each other during the peer review process. Other types of open peer review consist of:

  • publication of reviewers’ names on the article page.
  • publication of peer review reports alongside the article, whether signed or anonymous.
  • publication of peer review reports (signed or anonymous) together with authors’ and editors’ responses alongside the article.
  • publication of the paper after a quick check and opening a discussion forum to the community who can comment (named or anonymous).

Many believe this is the best way to prevent malicious comments, stop plagiarism, prevent reviewers from following their own agenda, and encourage open, honest reviewing. Others see open review as a less honest process, in which politeness or fear of retribution may cause a reviewer to withhold or tone down criticism.

For three years, five Elsevier journals experimented with publication of peer review reports (signed or anonymous) as articles alongside the accepted paper on ScienceDirect ( example ).

Read more about the experiment

More transparent peer review

In general, transparency is the key to trust in peer review. Many Elsevier journals therefore publish the name of the article’s handling editor on the published paper on ScienceDirect. Some journals also provide details about the number of reviewers who reviewed the article before acceptance.

Furthermore, in order to provide updates and feedback to reviewers, most Elsevier journals inform reviewers about the editor’s decision and their peers’ recommendations.

Article transfer service: peer review cascade

Elsevier authors can transfer their article submission from one journal to another for free if they are rejected, without the need to reformat, and often without needing further peer review.

We therefore ask referees during the review process for their consent to transfer their full review report (including all comments to the author and editor) along with the manuscript to the receiver journal. The benefits of full manuscript review cascades are twofold:

  • Reviewers are not asked to review the same manuscript several times for different journals.
  • Authors do not need to spend additional time reformatting their manuscript.

Tools and resources

Interesting reads.

  • Chapter 2 of Academic and Professional Publishing, 2012, by Irene Hames in 2012
  • "Is Peer Review in Crisis?" Perspectives in Publishing No 2, August 2004, by Adrian Mulligan
  • “The history of the peer-review process” Trends in Biotechnology, 2002, by Ray Spier

Reviewers’ Update articles

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Peer review using today’s technology

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Lifting the lid on publishing peer review reports: an interview with Bahar Mehmani and Flaminio Squazzoni

Peer review article image 3

How face-to-face peer review can benefit authors and journals alike

Innovation in peer review: introducing “volunpeers”

Innovation in peer review: introducing “volunpeers”

Results masked review: peer review without publication bias

Results masked review: peer review without publication bias

Is open peer review the way forward?

Is open peer review the way forward?

Elsevier Researcher Academy modules

Transparency in peer review

The certified peer reviewer course

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What's a peer-reviewed journal article?

peer review research paper

And how you can find peer-reviewed journals for your first research paper

Did you just get assigned your first research paper and are wondering about the requirement to use “peer-reviewed” or “scholarly” journal articles?

You’re not alone. I worked as an intern for a while at my university’s library, and I still remember the day a first-year student came up to the reference desk, handed me a piece of paper with the words “scholarly journals” on it, and asked where she could find them.

It’s an easy mistake to think you can just go to a section of the library, find some academic journals, and then look through them to find scholarly articles for a paper. These days, though, libraries are subscribing to fewer and fewer print journals, so you’ll usually be looking through a database instead. Before we get to that, though, what exactly are "peer-reviewed" journals anyway?

What does “peer-reviewed” mean?

A peer-reviewed journal is a journal article that has been selected, reviewed, and then approved for publication by other experts in the author’s field. Often the peer-review process is “double-blind”. This means that the reviewers don’t know the identity of the author and vice versa. Usually, there will be two or three reviewers. The reviewers will make comments and suggest corrections to the author, and the editor of the journal will then look at whether or not the author responded to these changes when deciding if the article should be published. This process can be very time-consuming but is designed to ensure the utmost quality of the published articles.

Where can you find peer-reviewed articles?

If, like the student in my story above, you are looking for peer-reviewed articles for the first time, how can you find them?

First, go to your library website. Many university libraries have a search portal on their website that searches both the library catalog and databases at the same time. If your library has this type of portal, just enter the search terms for your paper, and you’re likely to find a lot of items you have access to.

If your library doesn’t have a search portal for all library resources, it will usually have a “Databases” link. If Databases are listed by subject area, choose the subject area that fits best for your paper topic. If you’re not sure which subject area applies or if your topic is interdisciplinary in nature, use a database like EBSCO’s “Academic Search”. Some databases have an Advanced Search feature that lets you limit results to peer-reviewed journal articles. Other databases might have a filter that lets you narrow down your results to only keep those that are peer-reviewed. Keep an eye out for features like this.

Next, especially if the database you searched doesn’t have an option to limit results to peer-reviewed articles, check what type of sources you’ve found. An article might seem like it’s from a peer-reviewed journal but then turn out to be from a non-scholarly source such as a newspaper or magazine instead. Also, just because you found an article in a database and it’s from an academic journal, doesn’t mean it’s a peer-reviewed article! Book reviews or editorials, for example, are  not  peer-reviewed.

As mentioned above, most of the peer-reviewed articles you find will be online in a database. Since many students also have the requirement to not use any Internet sources for their first paper, this is understandably confusing, since databases are only accessible online. However, peer-reviewed journal articles found in a database are academic sources, and you don’t need to worry if you use them. If you’re ever unsure, just ask your professor or teaching assistant.

Are pre-prints peer-reviewed? And what are pre-prints anyway?

To make things even more confusing, in your database searches you might sometimes find an article that’s designated with one of the following terms: “pre-print publication”, “working paper”, “online first”, or “Epub ahead of print”. All of these designations mean that an article has not yet completed the entire publication process and appeared in the print edition of a journal. However, if you see “pre-print”, “preprint” or “working paper”, it usually means that the article has  not  gone through the peer-review process.

The Life Sciences, Mathematics, and the Physical Sciences tend to use pre-prints more frequently than other disciplines. The main reason is to get feedback before submitting to a journal, lay claim to the results before anyone else does, and to share results more quickly so that they can be used by other researchers.

If you see “online first “or “Epub ahead of print” in an article database, it usually means that the article has been accepted and gone through peer review. The article is just waiting to be published in the print edition of the journal. These types of articles are known as "postprints".

Can you cite a pre-print in your first research paper? If your requirements are to cite only peer-reviewed articles, you shouldn’t cite a pre-print since it hasn’t gone through the peer-review process. You can however cite a postprint, as long as you designate it accordingly. To add a postprint to Citavi, right-click the  Year  field and then select  In press . Enter the article’s date in the  Online since  field. The citation style you select will then automatically insert the correct designation.

Before you submit your paper, check to see if the article has appeared in print in the meantime. You can do so by clicking the  DOI name  field label and then selecting  Replace bibliographic information . If you now see entries in the volume, year, and issue number fields, the article has been published. Make sure to double-check that anything you cited is still current in the published version of the article.

Peer-reviewed journal articles in Citavi

Once you’ve found peer-reviewed articles online, it’s easy to transfer them to Citavi. But what about if you’re using Citavi’s online search feature and don’t have filters to help you determine which articles are peer-reviewed and which aren’t?

We recommend importing the results that look interesting and then assigning them the  Examine and assess  task. Then, at some point before obtaining the full text for the article, go through all references in your project with this task and try to evaluate whether the article is peer-reviewed or not:

  • First, double-check that the source is a journal article. Many journals have the word “Journal” as part of their title, but many do not. The best indication is that the  Volume  field will have an entry, but pre-prints and some journal articles won’t have this information. A  DOI  is also a good indication that you’re looking at a journal article, even though DOIs are sometimes also used for conference papers. If you see a full date or a month and year instead of just a year, and if the article is only one or two pages long, you likely have a newspaper article or magazine article instead of a journal article.
  • Next, on the  Reference  tab, check if there is any source designation in the  Title supplement  or  Notes  If you see “Journal Article” or something similar, you’re on the right track, but you also might see “Letter to the editor”, “Letter”, “Editorial” “Book review”, etc., which are not peer-reviewed.
  • Finally, switch to the  Content  tab and read the abstract if one is available. Does the article appear to contain an experiment or original analysis by the author(s) themselves? Original research often appears in peer-reviewed journals, so this is one additional clue that it could be a peer-reviewed article.

This process will help you weed out sources that very likely are not peer-reviewed, but in some cases you’ll only know for sure after obtaining the full text of the article. On the first or last page of the PDF, you'll often see some information about the publishing process the paper has undergone, for example "Received for publication Dec 13, 2017; revisions received Jan 18, 2019; accepted for publication February 26, 2019".

If you’re ever still unsure if an article has undergone peer review, ask your librarian for help. Librarians are experts in distinguishing different types of sources.

Are there any problems with peer-review?

In 2018 three people purposefully submitted fake journal articles to peer-reviewed journals  to see if they could get them published. Astonishingly, 7 out of 20 journal articles were accepted for publication. The journals that published the fake papers have since retracted them.

The hoax was widely reported in the media and has led to many discussions of peer review both inside and outside of academia. Although the authors’ purported goal was to point out the flaws in scholarship practices in certain cultural studies disciplines that they named “grievance studies”, the hoax also showed that peer-review is not a perfect system.

While this news story is one of the biggest concerning peer review, researchers within academia have long pointed out that the system  doesn’t guard against statistical fraud or conclusions based on fraudulent data , since reviewers usually don’t have access to the authors’ data sets. Furthermore, some journals let authors submit names of potential reviewers, and it’s been discovered that authors  have used fake email addresses  or names and then reviewed their own work.

Do these problems mean that we should just scrap the peer review process altogether? There are many people who do indeed want to reform the process, and a number of initiatives such as  open peer review  have been suggested, which would remove reviewer anonymity.

Even if changes to the system never gain wide acceptance, it’s important to keep in mind that abuses of the system occur in a very small percentage of all published papers. While peer-review can undoubtedly be improved in some ways, on the whole it has proven to be a very good system for ensuring that only quality academic work gets published.

Have any questions or opinions about peer review? We’d love to hear from you  on our Facebook page !

Recent Articles

Peer-reviewed journal articles

What is peer review, video - how to find peer reviewed articles.

  • Scholarly and academic - good enough?
  • Find peer-reviewed articles
  • Check if it's peer reviewed

Reusing content from this guide

peer review research paper

Attribute our work under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

peer review research paper

Peer review (also known as refereeing) is a process where other scholars in the same field (peers) evaluate the quality of a research paper before it's published. The aim is to ensure that the work is rigorous and coherent, is based on sound research, and adds to what we already know. 

The purpose of peer review is to maintain the integrity of research and to ensure that only valid and quality research is published.

To learn more about the peer review process see:

  • What is peer review? Comprehensive overview of the peer review process and different types of peer review from Elsevier

Peer reviewed articles (YouTube, 1m:51s)

  • Next: Scholarly and academic - good enough? >>

Why use peer-reviewed articles?

Your lecturers will often require you to use information from academic journal articles that are peer reviewed (also known as refereed).

Peer-reviewed articles are credible sources of information. The articles have been written and reviewed by trusted experts in the field, and represent the best scholarship and research currently available.

Further help

Contact the Librarian team .

Phone: + 617 334 64312 during opening hours

Email: [email protected]

  • Last Updated: Jul 10, 2023 1:49 PM
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