Guidelines for Reviewers
As a reviewer you are supposed to find out about the novelty of the manuscript you are asked to review. Therefore, it is recommended that you also see Author Guidelines to see which points authors are normally expected to observe before sending their manuscripts to journal for evaluation.
On Being Asked To Review
1) Does the article you are being asked to review truly match your expertise?
The Editor who has approached you may not know your work intimately, and may only be aware of your work in a broader context. Accept an invitation ONLY IF you are competent to review the article.
2) Do you have time to review the paper?
Reviewing an article can be quite time consuming. The time taken to review can vary from field to field, but an article will take, on average, 8-10 hours to review properly. Will you have sufficient time before the deadline stipulated in the invitation to conduct a thorough review? If you cannot conduct the review let the editor know immediately, and if possible advise the editor of alternative reviewers.
3) Are there any potential conflicts of interest?
A conflict of interest will not necessarily eliminate you from reviewing an article, but full disclosure to the editor will allow them to make an informed decision. Examples include your working in the same department or institute as one of the authors, your having worked on a paper previously with an author or your having a professional or financial connection to the article. These should all be listed when responding to the editor’s invitation for review.
Conducting the Review
Reviewing needs to be conducted confidentially, the article you have been asked to review should not be disclosed to a third party. If you wish to elicit opinion from colleagues or students regarding the article you should let the editor(s) know beforehand. Most editors welcome additional comments, but whoever else is involved will likewise need to keep the review process confidential. You should not attempt to contact the author. Be aware when you submit your review that any recommendations you make will contribute to the final decision made by the editor(s). You will be asked to evaluate the article on a number of criteria. Normally you would be expected to evaluate the article according to the following criteria:
This is the most important criterion. When you review a manuscript, please notice that papers that can be accepted are ones that, in addition to living up to Author Guidelines, make novel theoretical and/or methodological contributions to applied linguistics. Such papers are typically based on large, long-term research efforts like dissertations or multi-year projects. Generally, manuscripts should be accepted ONLY IF they appear to represent ‘an important new development’ in their field. The following questions can help you make better decisions: Is the article sufficiently novel and interesting to warrant publication? Does it add to the canon of knowledge? Does the article adhere to the journal's standards? Is the research question an important one? In order to determine its originality and appropriateness for the journal it might be helpful to think of the research in terms of what percentile it is in? Is it in the top 25% of papers in this field? You might wish to do a quick literature search using tools such as Scopus to see if there are any reviews of the area. If the research been covered previously, pass on references of those works to the editor.
Is the article clearly laid out? Are all the key elements (i.e., title, abstract, keywords, introduction, background, methodology [participants, instruments, procedure], results, discussion, conclusion, references, appendices) present? Consider each element in turn:
- Title: Does it clearly describe and summarize the article?
- Abstract: Does it reflect the content of the article? Does it follow the size limitation set by the journal (150-200 words)
- Keywords: Are they included? Are there 5 to 8 keywords?
- Introduction: Does it accurately describe what the author hoped to achieve, and clearly state the problem being investigated? Normally, the introduction is 1 to 4 paragraphs long. It should introduce the topic, establish a niche, identify a gap, and occupy the gap by stating the research questions/aims/hypotheses. Does the author achieve these?
- Background: Is it provided? Are the cited sources recent? Is it rigorous? Does it place the paper under review on a correct and firm theoretical pedestal? Are citations and quotations accurate?
- Method: Does the author describe the participants, instruments and procedure of the study? Does the author accurately explain how the data were collected? Is the design suitable for answering the question posed? Is there sufficient information present for you to replicate the research? Does the article identify the procedures followed? Are these ordered in a meaningful way? If the methods are new, are they explained in detail? Was the sampling appropriate? Have the equipment and materials been adequately described? Does the article make it clear what type of data were recorded? Has the author been precise in describing measurements? Is there any evidence of the validity and reliability of the tools and instruments?
- Results: This is where the author/s should explain in words what they discovered in the research. It should be clearly laid out and in a logical sequence. You will need to consider if appropriate analyses have been conducted. Are the statistics correct? If you are not comfortable with statistics, advise the editor when you submit your report. Interpretation of results should not be included in this section. Is the data commentary written in technical language? Are the abbreviations and symbols correct? Have the correct type face, symbols, and punctuation been used?
- Discussion: Does the author explain why the results turned out to be what they turned out to be? Has the author provided support from other sources? Is the author's own focused evaluation of the findings clearly stated? Has the author made acceptable attempts at describing the probable sources of their findings?
- Conclusion: Are the claims in this section supported by the results? Do they seem reasonable? Have the authors indicated how the results relate to expectations and to earlier research? Does the article support or contradict previous theories? Does the conclusion explain how the research has moved the body of scientific knowledge forward? Has the author made any suggestions or recommendations?
- References: Are the references in vancouver style? Are they comprehensive? Is there any reference which has not been cited? Is there any citation which has not been referenced?
- Appendices: Are they provided? Are they enough for someone who wishes to replicate the study? Is there any information about the copyright of the tools, questionnaires and the like?
- Language: If an article is poorly written due to grammatical errors, while it may make it more difficult to understand the science, you do not need to correct the English. You may wish to bring it to the attention of the editor, though. Finally, on balance, when considering the whole article, do the figures and tables inform the reader? Are they an important part of the story? Do the figures describe the data accurately? Are they consistent? (e.g., bars in charts are the same width, the scales on the axes are logical, etc.). Are they captioned correctly?
- Previous Research: If the article builds upon previous research, does it reference that work appropriately? Are there any important works that have been omitted? Are the references accurate?
4) Ethical Issues
- Plagiarism: If you suspect that an article is a substantial copy of another work, let the editor know, citing the previous work in as much detail as possible.
- Fraud: It is very difficult to detect the determined fraudster, but if you suspect the results in an article to be untrue, discuss it with the editor.
- Other ethical concerns: If the research involves human or other living subjects, has confidentiality been maintained? If there has been violation of accepted norms of ethical treatment of animal or human subjects these should also be identified.
Communicating Your Report to the Editor
Once you have completed your evaluation of the article the next step is to write up your report. If it looks like you might miss your deadline, let the editor know. In your report, you will provide the editor with an overview of your remarks. It is helpful to provide a quick summary of the article at the top of your report. It serves the dual purpose of reminding the editor of the details of the report and also reassuring the author and editor that you understood the article.
The report should contain the key elements of your review, addressing the points outlined in the preceding section. Commentary should be courteous and constructive, and should not include any personal remarks or personal details including your name. You should also use line-number referencing and give examples of the areas of the paper that require revision (e.g., page 2 paragraph 3, line 7 needs grammatical correction); you may also want to use the 'Track Changes' and 'Commenting' options from Microsoft Word to indicate your points in the manuscript itself.
Providing insight into any deficiencies is important. You should explain and support your judgment so that both editors and authors are better able to understand the basis of the comments. You should indicate whether your comments are your own opinion or reflected by data.
When you make a recommendation regarding an article, it is worth considering the categories an editor will likely use for classifying the article:
- Minor Revision
- Major Revision
In case you decide the article requires revision, clearly identify what revision is required, and indicate to the editor whether or not you would be available to review the revised article.
After External Review
After the external peer review of a manuscript, the corresponding author will receive an email in which s/he will be informed of the status of the manuscript (i.e., whether it has been accepted, requires revision, or rejected).
What if revision is required?
In most cases, reviewers may recommend that authors revise their manuscripts and send their revisions to journal for further processing. In such cases, authors may want to accept some of the comments and suggestions that have been made by the reviewers, and at the same time refute some others. Editorial team fully understands that, after all, authors have worked on their papers for a long time, and that they may see points which may go unnoticed by reviewers. It is, therefore, strongly recommended that authors send in a 'rebuttal' note (in the form of a Microsoft Word *.doc or *.docx file) in which they respond to all the comments and suggestions made by the reviewers in an item-by-item fashion. They should clearly show which comments and suggestions they accept, and which comments and suggestions they refute. Where a comment or suggestion is refuted, the author is expected to provide the reason why.
Ethical Duties of Reviewers
Contribution to Editorial Decisions
Peer review assists the editor in making editorial decisions and, through the editorial communication with the author, may also assist the author in improving the paper.
Any selected referee who feels unqualified to review the research reported in a manuscript or knows that it is not possible to meet the deadline, should immediately notify the editor so that the paper can be sent to another reviewer.
Any manuscripts received for review must be treated as confidential documents. They must not be shown to or discussed with others except as authorized by the editor.
Standards of Objectivity
Reviews should be conducted objectively. Personal criticism of the author(s) is unacceptable. Referees should express their views impartially and clearly and with supporting argument.
Acknowledgment of Sources
Reviewers should identify relevant published work that has not been cited by the authors. Any statement that had been previously reported should be accompanied by the relevant citation. A reviewer should also call to the editor in chief's attention any substantial similarity or overlap between the manuscript under consideration and any other published paper of which they have personal knowledge.
Disclosure and Conflict of Interest
Privileged information or ideas obtained through peer review must be kept confidential and not used for personal advantage. Reviewers should not consider manuscripts in which they have conflicts of interest resulting from competitive, collaborative, or other relationships or connections with any of the authors, companies, or institutions connected to the papers.