In the world of research and publication, peer review is one of the most popular and most followed practices. The article discusses peer review as a means of improving the quality of academic papers. In addition, it explains peer-reviewed journals and articles, as well as how to identify them. The article also discusses the requirements and qualities needed to be a peer reviewer. Furthermore, there is a description of how publications undergo peer review and the methodologies they use. A detailed illustration of the peer review process is further provided in the article. Moreover, it examines its critics.
Many of you have probably encountered incidents where you showed your friends or peers your art or your piece of work to find out what they thought. It helps you progress further when they provide honest and valid opinions and suggestions. It might be a painting, a book manuscript, a new clothing design, or a business plan. When you view your work through the lens of people with sound knowledge of your field, you will feel validated and be able to spot your silly mistakes and improve.
This is a scientific process that exists in multiple sectors, from publications, journals, and research papers to scientific or mathematical discoveries. As a simple explanation, peer review can be described as a critical assessment of a piece of work by one or more individuals with extensive knowledge and experience in the topic. It is done to evaluate the originality, quality, authenticity and correctness of the articles, research papers or journals in consideration. It also helps to filter out and point out things that seem erroneous and invalid or out of context concerning the piece of work. Adding peer review value to a project is essential. It validates the author as well as their work.
For example, when an author wants to publish his/her article in a journal or on a website. Before directly taking the final step, the author will refer it to a proof-reader to correct any grammatical and punctuation mistakes. But after that, he/she will also peer-review the article to see if there is any theoretical or conceptual mistake in the content of the article. After it gets reviewed and approved by the reviewer, the article gets finally published. It will reduce and avoid any case of inaccuracy, fallacy and plagiarism.
According to the Wiley RANO survey, 2013, 9 out of 10 researchers believe that peer review adds quality to their paper and that peer reviews also imply better research. Peer review has been a part of the publishing community for over 300 years. It has been considered to have a pivotal role in certifying the legitimacy of the work before publishing it and presenting it to the world.
What is a peer-reviewed journal?
- Peer-reviewed journals are also called referred journals.
- The publications have a set of scholarly experts on their boards to review and assess the articles before selecting them for publication.
- The articles are assessed as per the nature of the publication or journal to check whether the theme of the article is matching to that of the publication.
- It is also essential to check the article’s accuracy. The publications need to make sure articles are processed for publication without any factual faults.
- Peer-reviewing the journal also makes it a reliable source for readers. The publication also ensures that the articles published in the journal are readable and understandable to the readers.
- Peer-revied journals ensure the quality of the article and that of the journal. Mostly the reviewer who is reviewing a particular article has no idea about the author. The name of the writer is kept anonymous to maintain the integrity of the work and eliminate personal bias.
How to identify if a journal is peer-reviewed?
Many students while working on their research papers and other projects are requested by the professors to use sources from peer-reviewed journals. It can be a little lengthy task but is not at all difficult.
- One of the best and easiest ways to check whether a journal is peer-reviewed is to verify it via its website. You don’t have to physically go anywhere or crosscheck multiple websites. The official website of the publication mentions whether or not the journal is reviewed. There is a section on the website of the journal that mentions the details of the author. Or it will redirect to another portal that will give the information. Along with that, there is also the process mentioned for submitting articles and reviewing them.
- You can do a database search to thoroughly check and confirm whether your journal is peer-reviewed or not. The database contains all the prominent information on journals and publications but you can filter and limit your search results to peer-reviewed journals. There are database-checking sites like Academic Search Complete and Academic Search Premier that will allow you to crosscheck and verify the legitimacy of the information published. There are various filters available to narrow down your search. You can simply type the name of the journal and you will see all the information pertinent to it on your screen. You have to scroll down to the bottom to see whether the article is peer-reviewed.
- If the source or information about the journal being peer-reviewed is not available online on any sites then you need to track it down manually. You have to locate a library and get hold of the current and latest updated publication volume or journal you are looking for. Search for the masthead of the journal. It is usually located at the end or beginning of the journal. It consists of information about the publications such as authors, editors, publication date and place and so on. In this section, you will find whether the journal is peer-reviewed. If it is not available you can also crosscheck the older volumes or publications to verify, since some publishers mention it only once during the initial releases.
How to check if an article is peer-reviewed?
- You can use the method to check peer-reviewed journals to confirm the articles as well.
- In addition to this to verify the reviewed articles, one can take a hard copy of the journal and search for the article’s information in the publication details section.
- If the hard copy is unavailable one can also check the online soft copy of the journal. And look for options like ‘About Authors’ or any similar ones on the website. The detail about the articles will be given.
Also, while referring to peer-reviewed journals one must take care that not all the articles in such a journal are peer-reviewed. Editorials, letters or book reviews are personal opinions and are not put under scrutiny and thus should not be considered as reviewed.
Who can be a peer reviewer?
- There is no specific need for a PhD degree in research or writing or any other subject required for an individual to be a peer reviewer. However, they must possess the required and relevant knowledge and experience in the field of the work being reviewed.
- The reviewer should adhere to the ethical guidelines and rules before starting with their work.
- The reviewer is also required to research the journal and the theme of the articles to understand the concept.
- As well as having writing and publishing experience, he/she should also know how to manage deadlines.
- The reviewer should also not indulge in any sort of personal agenda or bias against the journal, organisation or author. In case of any conflict of interest, the issue must be brought to notice as soon as possible.
Journals mostly have a large pool of reviewers in diversified domains to help them review multiple articles at a time.
Also Read: How to Publish your articles online?
Types of peer-review –
There are various types and methodologies used by journals and publications for peer reviewing and one must take care of and adhere to the format which is requested to follow.
- Single Anonymized Review- In this case, the name of the reviewer is hidden and not revealed to the author. It helps the author to understand the feedback without any bias and also gives rise to impartial decisions. However, the availability of the author’s name might give rise to the reviewer’s bias.
- Double Anonymized Review -This type of review keeps both the author’s name and the reviewer’s name anonymous to eliminate any bias. Among its major advantages is the fact that it allows content to be judged solely on its quality and not on the author’s reputation or previous work.
- Open Review – Peer reviews using an open review model aim to increase transparency before, during, and after the review process. Whenever both the reviewer and author have a mutual understanding during the peer review process, it is said to be an open review.
What is the peer-review process?
- The first step of any peer-review process is thorough research and a fully prepared manuscript.
- After an article is submitted to the editor, the editor evaluates it. If the submission is well-written, contains appropriate data and research, and fits the theme of the journal, it is likely to be accepted and the editor might send it to get reviewed further. And if it does not then the article might straightaway get rejected.
- It is sent to get peer-reviewed by experts in the relevant field. Some journals also appoint an Associate Editor to peer-review the journal. While some Editors send invitations to peer reviewers. The invitations need to be accepted by the reviewers without any conflict of interest or bias and they should adhere to the norms and guidelines of the publication. In case of the rejection of the invitation, the reviewer might also suggest any other suitable and potential candidate for the work.
- Following the submission of the article to peer reviewers, the following scenarios may arise.
- It can get rejected by the reviewer if there are inaccuracies in the research or explanations and if the article is not properly addressing the topic at hand. Traditionally, once an article is rejected, it is not sent back to the editor or the author with any recommendations or changes, which means that the chance of it being published is eliminated once the article has been rejected.
- After assessing if the reviewer feels that the article is good and sticks to its point but requires little refurbishing then the article will be sent back to the editor with some suggestions and recommendations. The editor will look at the suggestions and decide whether to send them back to the author or not. Once the author receives it, he or she can choose to act on them. It is possible for the author to improve all the parts as requested or to consider only half of them. Once revised, the manuscript needs to be again sent to the editor of the publication. The editor does have the right to reject the article if they feel to. If they accept it then it is sent again to the peer reviewer for another scan or revision. If the changes are minor then the last review or revision is also done by the editor.
- If the editor feels that peer-reviewed corrections are not required then the article can be sent directly sent for production. To avoid any sort of misuse or sabotage of the work, all steps of any changes to the article are first communicated to the author and no changes are made without the author’s approval.
- After the article has received the editor’s approval, it moves to the final step of production and publication where the article becomes available to the public.
Let us understand the process of peer reviewing with the help of an example-
- If you have an article or a research paper related to digitalization in education and are looking forward to publishing it then your first step is researching journals and publications that are close and related to your interest and work.
- Let’s say you finally decided on the International Journal of Educational Research (IJER) to publish your work. Firstly, you need to search their website for their authors or article guidelines and modify your article a little and prepare a manuscript. Since, in this case, the publication is Elsevier, you have to visit their official website to access the guide for authors.
- Then you need to submit the manuscript to the editor of the journal. It mostly has to be submitted online in a softcopy manner along with other details. But if there are any other requirements or needs for hardcopy, then that will be mentioned.
- One must not send manuscripts to more than one publication at a time.
- Once, the article or paper is reviewed by the editor then the editor will initiate the peer-reviewing process. It is a lengthy process and you have to wait for days to hear from the editor.
- Since the article is based on education, the editor will send out invites to eligible candidates for peer review. The candidate can be a PhD candidate, a professor, a professional working in the education sector or an author from a related field.
- The publication then decides the type of peer reviewing. It can set guidelines and keep it anonymous or consider an open review. Not knowing the identity can help to boost the quality of the work.
- The reviewer will assess your work and send it to the editor who will send it back to you. The editor can also reject your work. You can work on your manuscript and send it again.
- Once you receive the recommendations, work on them and submit them again.
- If your article is approved then you will receive a nod from Elsevier publications for the same.
- Before the publication of the article, you will be asked once to proofread it. And your article is ready to be published.
Journal of Social Sciences is an international journal that focuses on areas like history, anthropology and sociology and is also peer-reviewed. American Journal of Sociology published by the University of Chicago Press also follows the same format for peer-reviewing. The list of peer-reviewed journals and databases can be accessed online and will also help in citations and references for any future work.
Importance of peer review-
- Peer review helps to feel the gaps in the article. It is more than proofreading. It helps to bring to notice what content belongs in the article and what doesn’t.
- It also confirms the pertinency of the article in a journal and validates it as comprehensible by the readers and viewers.
- It gives scope for an elaborate and intricate opinion and review by experts in a specific field concerning the article or journal. Peer review also enriches the proficiency of the researcher or writer in his/her area of expertise.
- Peer review helps to strengthen the interaction and communication within the research communities. It provides a space for networking.
- Peer review paves way for advancement.
- It also helps to tackle plagiarism in any sense.
There is certain criticism of the peer-review process as well. Some express the complexity or unnecessity behind the entire process
- Despite the peer-review process, many researchers believe that some mistakes and inaccuracies go unnoticed and are brought to light after months or years which makes the entire peer-review system baseless.
- Even when the research paper or article gets rejected after the peer-review process, sooner or later it is published somewhere. Time is wasted in this manner.
- There are also doubts raised about the anonymity clause where the identity of the author and the reviewer are kept anonymous. Many believe that even though the names are not displayed, the reviewer can most of the time recognise the author with the help of the writing pattern.
- Concern has also been raised about unnecessarily stretching the process. It is believed by critics that peer review slows down the process of publications and wastes their time as well as money.
Even with all the critics around peer review, it remains one of the most common around the world. In this way, the journal or publication is ensured that the work is readable by the public and matches its stance in terms of quality and authenticity.