A quick guide to writing a solid peer review



[1] Scientific integrity and consensus rely on the peer review process, a defining feature of scientific discourse that subjects the literature forming the foundation of credible knowledge in a scientific field to rigorous scrutiny. However, there is surprisingly little training in graduate school on how to develop this essential skill [Zimmerman et al., 2011] or discussion of best practices to ensure that reviewers at all levels efficiently provide the most useful review. Even more challenging for the novice peer reviewer is that journals also vary widely in their review guidelines. Nonetheless, the goals of peer review are crystal clear: to ensure the accuracy and improve the quality of published literature through constructive criticism. To make the peer review process as efficient and productive as possible, you may want to consider a few useful approaches to tackling major steps throughout your review, from contemplating a review request and reading and assessing the manuscript to writing the review and interacting with the journal's editors (see Figure 1). These tips are particularly relevant for graduate students or other first-time reviewers, but they may also be useful to experienced reviewers and to journal editors seeking to enhance their publication's processes.


The inspiration for this paper came out of productive conversations with Mike White at the Dissertations Initiative for the Advancement of Climate Change Research (DISCCRS) V Symposium in March 2010. Symposium travel and on-site expenses were covered by the U.S. National Science Foundation through collaborative grants SES-0932916 (Whitman College, P. Yancey, principal investigator (PI)) and SES-0931402 (University of Oregon, R. B. Mitchell, PI) and through a pending award from NASA (Whitman College, P. Yancey, PI). M. White provided thoughtful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. Comments from two anonymous reviewers contributed to the improvement of this paper.