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detailed feedback can be provided in two sections:
  1. comments to authors – required
  2. additional confidential comments to the editor – optional; indicate malpractice such as suspected plagiarism, fraud, unattributed work, unethical procedures, duplicate publication, bias or other conflicts of interest
guiding principles
  • review the paper, not the authors
  • read the paper through once before making any comments
  • number your comments
  • start by mentioning positive aspects of the paper, so that the authors know what they've done well
  • be critical but constructive – suggest ways in which the manuscript can be improved
  • be considerate and polite – do not be derogatory; many submissions are from first-time authors who can be dissuaded from writing further manuscripts
  • avoid bias – inform the editor about any conflicts of interest
  • don't merely insert comments on the manuscript document – write your comments in the spaces provided
  • as you read through the manuscript, keep the objective, the content and the language in mind
  • write clearly and so that people whose first language is not english can understand your comments; avoid complex or unusual words
  • please refer to the guidelines for authors
  • recognise that no study is perfect
writing the review
please divide your report into:
  • summary
  • major issues
  • minor issues
repeat the research question addressed in the paper, then summarise the aim, approaches, and conclusions in a few sentences. this will help the editor to contextualise the research.
major issues
  • state any major flaws.
  • if similar work has been published but not acknowledged, mention this.
  • if the authors are presenting controversial findings, is the evidence strong enough? have they cited all the relevant work that would contradict their thinking and addressed it appropriately?
minor issues
minor issues include incorrect citations, excessive citations, numerical or unit errors, incorrect labelling of tables and figures, typographical errors, etc.
overall comments
provide an overall qualitative impression of the paper, and highlight any issues that pertain to the paper generally, e.g. does it need to be edited to improve the grammar?
specific comments
provide comments on each section of the paper, where appropriate. if you have no comments for a particular section, there is no need to include that section in your review.
  • does the title properly reflect the subject of the paper?
  • is the abstract structured?
  • does it include a background, objective(s), methods and results?
  • does it highlight the important/most interesting findings?
  • is it within the word limit?
  • do the keywords accurately reflect the content of the paper?
  • are they different to the words used in the title?
a well-written introduction:
  • includes a brief background to the topic
  • describes the problem being investigated
  • highlights gaps in current understanding or conflicts in current knowledge
  • justifies the need for the research
the introduction should end by stating the research aims/objectives.
the methods should be written in enough detail to enable other researchers to carry out the research.
  • is the study design stated?
  • is the location and study period mentioned?
  • is the study population defined?
  • is the sampling method and the sample adequately described?
  • are the measurement tools adequately described?
  • if questionnaires were used, were they validated?
  • is the methodology sound?
  • are the statistical analysis methods adequately described? is the statistical software used stated?
  • was sufficient data collected for valid analysis to be conducted?
  • are the tables and/or figures clear? are they understandable without reading the text?
  • are the main points in the tables/figures highlighted in the text?
  • where appropriate, are results of statistical analysis provided, such as significance or goodness of fit?
  • for qualitative research, are there sufficient and appropriate quotes from interviews or focus groups?
  • does the discussion extend beyond the results?
  • are the results explained?
  • is the significance of the results explained?
  • are findings that are not in the results discussed?
  • are the results compared with those from other studies on the same or similar topic? are there published studies with similar or dissimilar findings?
  • for qualitative research, does the discussion extend beyond the authors’ opinions?
  • does the study add something to current understanding about the topic? if not, is there a strong argument for publishing the paper?
  • are the strengths and limitations mentioned?
  • are recommendations included?
the conclusion should be no more than a paragraph or two and should reflect upon the aims – whether they were achieved or not.
  • does the conclusion address the main question/align with the objectives?
  • do the results support the conclusion?
  • is the paper an appropriate length?
  • are the key messages short, accurate and clear?
  • is the paper well written? don't spend excessive time correcting grammar or spelling. however, if you spot grammatical errors that affect clarity of meaning, then point these out.
  • references should be relevant, recent and readily retrievable.
  • have the authors followed the referencing style of the journal?
  • have the authors overly cited their own work?
if you suspect plagiarism, including self-plagiarism, or any other publication misconduct (policy on publication misconduct), please notify the editor.
making a recommendation
  • accept – provide an explanation, and state if there are any areas that could be improved. accept the paper if the research it describes makes a useful contribution to the knowledge base or understanding of the subject matter, even if only preliminary results are presented.
  • revise and resubmit – recommend this outcome if improvements are needed; provide constructive feedback to help the authors improve the paper.
  • reject – recommend this outcome if the paper has serious flaws. constructive criticism helps developing researchers improve their work and explains to the editor why you felt the manuscript should not be published.
additional resources
official journal