How To Peer Review A Manuscript - An Overview
As a reviewer your first responsibility is to thoroughly evaluate the science in a manuscript. The second responsibility is to compose an effective peer review.
Review manuscripts only if you have the necessary expertise. Do not review manuscripts beyond your scope of competency or specialization. Going beyond the scope of competency has a danger that papers with serious errors or deficiencies may be published in absence of rigorous review by reviewers with the necessary expertise.
Be fair in your evaluation of all manuscripts. If there is a review bias, mention this clearly in the beginning of the review. If a conflict of interest exists do not review the manuscript and explain this to the editor. Do not let the reputation of the author or the prestige of the author’s institute, bias your ability for vigorous assessment.
What you communicate to the authors and what you communicate to the editor are different aspects of writing a review. Write review for both authors and editor. Inform the authors about the strengths and weaknesses of the submitted paper and recommend the editor whether the manuscript should be accepted, rejected, or sent back for revision.
Organized the review into multiple sections. Comments for authors can be a summary of the paper, major comments, and minor comments. Write a separate appraisal for the editor.
Major comments are those that affect the validity of the study (e.g. ambiguous hypothesis, missing experiments or details, incorrect data analysis, faulty interpretation of results, conclusions).
Minor comments suggest changes that would add value to the paper but are not critical to the study's validity (e.g. clarification of text, expanded discussion of some aspect of the study, background material, alternative explanations).
List the comments in the same order as the presentation of the manuscript. Specify the page number, line number and/or the paragraphs.
Avoid writing vague comments. Write comments in detail which are specific, clear and tell the authors exactly what you are talking about. If possible give examples and reference previously published studies.
Be consistent in what you say to the authors and to the editor. If your comments show that a study has a major flaws in methodology and data analysis, do not write to the editor that that study can be accepted after minor revisions.
Be polite and considerate for the authors. Do not use emotionally strong words. Point out the flaws in the study but be careful in tone of your comments. Be as objective as possible in your evaluation.
It is a professional honor to be invited to review a scientific manuscript. The journal's reputation depends in part on the peer review process. Take the peer review process seriously, be polite, be constructive and help in dissemination of good, novel research.