Peer review is an essential tool for improving the quality of articles published in academic journals. The SSA’s Natalie Davies talks to colleagues at Addiction about their guidelines (and advice) for budding reviewers.

SSA: Firstly, do I need to say ‘yes’ if I am asked to review a manuscript?

Addiction: “No, in fact you should decline to review the manuscript if you have a conflict of interest (e.g. one of the authors is a close colleague, a recent co-author, or someone from the same institution), or if you do not have time to complete your review within the specified time frame. If you can suggest other potential reviewers on this topic though, that would be great.”

Is there anything I should do to prepare for being a reviewer?

“We recommend you taking the time to familiarise yourself with Addiction’s submission guidelines, as well as this editorial, which sets out priorities for the journal.”

How should I structure my feedback?

“Begin the review with a summary of the main strengths and weaknesses of the paper. Then go through the sections of the paper commenting on the quality as appropriate and suggesting improvements or raising queries or concerns.”

“There is no fixed length for reviews, but they are generally between a few paragraphs and three pages.”

“Numbering your comments will make it easier for authors to refer to them if they are invited to revise and resubmit.”

Is there anything that I should avoid doing?

“It is very important for reviewers to avoid writing comments or criticisms that are directed at authors. A simple change in language can stop you from inadvertently doing this: refer to ‘the paper’ or ‘the manuscript’ rather than ‘the authors’.”

“It is also important that reviewers’ comments to authors are consistent with their recommendations to the Editor. It makes our job more difficult if a reviewer tells the Editor privately of major concerns about the paper, but then writes a positive review to send to the authors.”

Will the author of the manuscript see all of my comments?

“You can submit confidential comments to the Editor or Associate Editor, which would not be seen by the author. For example, if there are aspects of the manuscript on which you do not feel qualified to comment, you can mention these in your confidential comments. You can also bring up any concerns about possible ethical or scientific misconduct (e.g. concurrent submissions by the same authors of the same manuscript to other journals or prior publications reporting the same or very similar findings).”

Read the full reviewer guidelines on the Addiction website, which provide more detailed advice about the review process. For further information, email Jean O’Reilly (Editorial Manager and Book Review Editor).

edited by Natalie Davies

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