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There are many criticisms of the manuscript review process but few systematic studies of the referees' comments on manuscripts they review. The authors examined comments on a sample of first submission manuscripts reviewed by the American Sociological Review (ASR), 1977–1981. Positive and negative comments were classified into twelve categories: topic, theory, review of literature, design, data, sample, measurement, analysis, results, style, ad hominem, general. No manuscripts received unequivocally favorable reviews, but some reviews were less negative than others. Referees were more critical of manuscripts in comments to the editor than in comments to authors. Authors did not see comments to the editor nor did they know the referees' recommendations concerning their manuscripts. Thus, editors had more information than authors, and authors may complain that they got mixed messages from two or more referees. However, there were surprisingly few actual contradictions in referees' comments. While most comments (both positive and negative) were general, a substantial number were about theory and analysis. Reviews of the same manuscript by different referees yielded surprisingly few contradictions, most of those about theory. The biggest difference between the comments by referees recommending publication and by those recommending rejection was praise. Referees were equally critical of all manuscripts, but were more likely to praise those recommended for publication.