The Complete Guide to Conducting a Peer Review

Understanding the Types, Process, and Best Practices from Invitation to Written Review

The peer review process is the gold standard for validating scholarly work and plays a critical role in the distribution of research across various disciplines. This blog post aims to demystify its complexities, discuss its importance, and outline various models employed within academic circles.

What is Peer Review?

Peer review is an evaluative process where experts within a particular field scrutinize submitted work, such as journal articles, research proposals, or academic papers, to ascertain its quality and relevance to the discipline. The ultimate goal is to ensure that only substantiated and methodologically sound work contributes to academic dialogue.

Classifications of Peer Review

The core principles of peer review remain constant, but the methodology can differ depending on the guidelines set by publishers, journals, or academic institutions. This post will cover best practices for each of the following predominant types of peer review:

1. Single-Blind Peer Review: Under this model, the identities of the reviewers are undisclosed to the authors. The reviewers, however, are privy to the identities of the authors. This is perhaps the most conventional form of peer review.

2. Double-Blind Peer Review: In this model, both the reviewers and the authors remain anonymous to each other, thereby aiming to minimize any form of bias related to gender, institutional affiliation, or other personal factors.

3. Open Peer Review: In contrast to blind reviews, the open peer review process is transparent, with both parties aware of each other’s identities. In some instances, the reviewer’s comments are also made public.

4. Post-Publication Peer Review: This innovative model allows for the immediate publication of articles, which are subsequently reviewed. The community at large can engage in the evaluation process, though reviews from authoritative figures often carry more influence.

5. Collaborative Peer Review: This model engages authors and reviewers in an interactive dialogue, usually facilitated through a digital platform, to collaboratively improve the manuscript before publication.

Getting started: Responding to the invitation

Before Deciding to Accept or Decline a Review Request, Consider the Following:

Expertise: Ensure the manuscript falls within your area of expertise. You should only commit to a review if you’re familiar with the subject matter.

Time Commitment: Evaluate whether you can meet the deadline. Peer reviews can be time-consuming, so make sure you can allocate sufficient time. If you foresee delays, communicate this to the editor promptly.

Objectivity: Assess your ability to provide an unbiased review. Disclose any potential conflicts of interest to the editor when responding.

Respond promptly to the invitation, as delays prolong the process. Declining is preferable to withdrawing later. When declining, suggest alternative reviewers and specify why you’re unable to participate.

Reading the Manuscript and Writing the Review

Confidentiality: Remember that all materials you have access to must remain confidential until published. Disclosing any information about the review without consent is not permissible.

Your review will be processed through the Biomolecules and Biomedicine submission system. Follow the link in your invitation email to access the paper and submit your review.

You’ll be provided with a series of questions aimed at various manuscript aspects like data analysis, reproducibility, and overall clarity. Prepare your responses with the authors in mind, as these comments will be included in the decision letter. Ensure your answers are detailed to guide the authors in improving the manuscript effectively.

Questions for Research Articles

Abstract and Introduction

– Does the summary encapsulate the main research question and conclusions?
– Does it contextualize the current state of the topic and justify the necessity of the study?

Tables and Graphs

– Are the figures and tables legible?
– Do captions provide sufficient information?
– Are axes properly labeled?
– Is the presentation appropriate for the data?
– Do tables and figures substantiate the conclusions?

Materials and Methods

– What research methods or interventions were used?
– Are controls appropriate?
– Were data collection and interpretation done correctly?
– Any ethical concerns?
– Could another researcher replicate the study?
– Is statistical analysis adequate?

Results, Discussion, and Conclusions

– Are results clearly and accurately presented?
– Is there a comparison with existing research?
– Are conclusions data-supported?
– Are study limitations discussed?

Questions for Review Articles

– Does the review present an unbiased summary of the current understanding of the topic?
– Does the manuscript offer a balanced view of recent work by active groups in the subject area?
– Does the review make a valuable contribution to the field?
– Is any content previously presented in another review?
– Does the article focus on recent advances in research?
– Does it provide a balanced and unbiased overview of the current understanding?
– Are any recent or important references missing?
– Is the review overly focused on the authors’ own research?
– Is the interpretation and presentation of results from previous studies accurate and precise?
– Is the review understandable for non-expert readers?

Structuring the Report

Separate your comments into ‘major’ and ‘minor’ issues, referring to specific lines or sections for clarity. Major issues must be resolved before the manuscript progresses, while minor issues are less impactful but still noteworthy.

Confidential Comments for Editors

Here, outline any concerns you wish to share with the editors prior to disclosing your feedback to the authors. Indicate if you’d be willing to review a revised version.

For additional tips, please refer here.

Submitting the Review

When ready, consider the categories the editor will use to evaluate the manuscript:

Reject: Major flaws exist that revisions cannot rectify.
Accept: The manuscript is well-crafted and contributes meaningfully to the field. No improvements are required.
Revise: Specify required major or minor revisions and indicate if you’d be willing to review the revised manuscript. Provide concise, compelling justifications for your recommendations.

Practical Advices: Dos and Don’ts of Peer Review

While the peer-review process is nuanced and varies between journals, a few general principles can guide reviewers toward best practices. Here are some crucial dos and don’ts to consider:


Summarize the Article: Briefly summarize the article at the outset to indicate to the editor that you’ve read and comprehended the research.

Highlight Originality: Point out whether the study contributes something new or original to the field.

Be Precise: Make your comments clear, detailed, and easy to understand, aiming for well-defined paragraphs that are easy for both the editor and author to follow.

Justify Comments: Ensure that your comments are fact-based and well-supported, providing evidence or references where possible.

Report Ethical Concerns: Should you have reservations regarding plagiarism, data manipulation, or other ethical issues, consult the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) guidelines and inform the editor.


Self-Promote: Avoid using the review to validate your own research or theories.

Nitpick: Don’t concentrate solely on language and grammatical issues unless the manuscript requires extensive editing for clarity.

Overreach: Avoid suggesting extraneous experiments or elements that fall outside the study’s scope or the journal’s requirements.

Be Biased: Do not dismiss other theories or viewpoints simply because they conflict with your own beliefs. Aim for objectivity.

Break Confidentiality: Stick to the COPE guidelines by treating all manuscripts as confidential. Never share your review or any related information without explicit permission from both the editors and authors.

Micromanage: Offer constructive feedback but don’t dictate how authors should revise their manuscript.

Citation Fishing: Do not encourage authors to cite your work merely to increase your citation count.

Review Conflicted Work: Decline requests to review manuscripts authored by individuals you know, or studies in which you have been directly involved.

By adhering to these dos and don’ts, you not only uphold the integrity of the peer-review process but also make a meaningful contribution to advancing knowledge within your field.

Editor: Ermina Vukalic

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