Note: I debated writing this post, given how journals have their own processes and I don't want to make sweeping generalizations. They also usually/hopefully hold orientations for reviewers and an outlined process for authors), so please know that this info is not the end all, be all. Thank you~
REVIEWS & REVIEWERS
In the publication process (see my post about that here), after you submit your manuscript and if the editor decides it should be looked at, the manuscript will "go out for review." Review is feedback. The feedback is usually matched as best as possible, by the editor/editorial board with different people who can give relevant, solid comments about your work. Usually, the matches are aligned with content area, theoretical expertise, and/or methodological/method knowledge. Typically reviews are double-anonymized, meaning that reviewers do not know the identity of the author(s), and the author(s) do not know the identity of the reviewers. Some journals are changing this practice given that, a
Reviewers range from faculty, graduate students, practitioners, policy makers, community organizers, depending on the scope/mission of the journal. Most academic journals have faculty reviewers, but a growing list are also accepting graduate students. Some journals do a "Call for Reviewers" so keep an eye out and/or reach out and ask an editor if they need reviewers. This is voluntary work that is in service to the academy so you can imagine, there's always a shortage.
PROCESS & PLATFORM
Reviewers will give feedback about your manuscript (that you can see) along with a recommendation to the editor/editorial board about what to do with your paper (that you may or may not be able to see). The recommendations range from accept, accept with minor edits, accept with major edits, revise and resubmit (which means you get another set of reviews), or reject completely. From there, the editor/editorial board compiles the reviews and makes a decision. (For more info about the timeline, please refer to this post.)
Different journals use different platforms for feedback. For example, platforms like NowComment allow for reviewers and authors to interact directly (which also means that they are not anonymous to one another). Other journals will anonymize the PDFs or Word documents for reviewers; if the latter, that might also allow for line-by-line commenting. Many journal editors/editorial boards will ask the reviewers to submit bulleted list of concerns for author(s) to address, along with their recommendation.
Again, this is my personal process, but here's my thought process of how I create the bulleted list and craft the recommendation. I try to keep the numbered list at around 10 or less (so that it's not too overwhelming), and try to include my rationale as the reader, along with suggestions of phrasings or resources, citations, links, etc. I also try to stack the biggest concerns at the top with the following tiers in my head:
I use my tiered system to help breakdown what recommendation to make: mostly [A]s as rejections; mostly [B]s as revise and resubmit; mostly [C]s as accept with major changes; mostly [D] as accept with minor changes.
When I review a manuscript, I also don't do it at once and instead, have several different stages:
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
Here are some things to keep in mind, both as an author who reads the reviews and as a reviewer:
And lastly, remember what the review is for. Don't be reviewer 2. This is a running joke in academia. "Reviewer 2" is the reviewer that has an almost infinite set of comments, usually harshly written, and usually outside the scope of the work. Reviewer 2 breaks down authors instead of building them up to be excited about and push the work further. Reviewer 2 makes people feel like crap, makes them put away their work and not look at it for months or even years. Reddit has dedicated thread called AITA (am I the asshole?); don't be the asshole; don't be Reviewer 2.
Reviewers and reviewing is about a conversation, about improving the work, about building, and about producing, refining, and pushing the work and ourselves to do better, be better. That isn't mutually exclusive with being compassionate.
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