Guidelines to journal reviewers

[Journal X] is different from other journals in that our editorial team puts in a significant amount of effort to improve submitted papers. Our aim as an editorial team is to provide authors with clear guidance to help them revise and improve their submissions. Towards that aim, our editors synthesize and reconcile any substantive differences in the reviews, sometimes adding our own suggestions. Submissions may go through several rounds of revision before acceptance.

In the spirit of assisting authors to develop their thinking and make their written exposition of that thinking work better on readers, we ask you as a reviewer to follow these guidelines:

  • First, show authors that their voice has been heard by reflecting back to them what they did (or almost did) and where they were taking you. You might summarize how the authors grabbed the intended audience’s attention and oriented the audience both to the direction of the authors’ own goals in undertaking the project and to where their paper intended to take the audience. Taking the audience somewhere usually consists of steps in an overall argument or progression that leads their audience to the position the authors want them to appreciate, whether or not the audience agrees with the authors’ concluding propositions.
  • Having such a summary at the start of the review should help authors take in the specific suggestions you then make for how to clarify and extend the impact on readers of what was written.
  • Minor points, such as those of a copyediting nature, can come at the end.

The guidelines promote an ethic of helping the writer and discourage gatekeeping. They correspond to a role for editors as more than as a conduit for the reviews; instead as reconcilers and synthesizers of the reviews. Of course, editors cannot be specialists in every subject submitted and they don’t have the time to be the primary reviewers. But they can tell whether reviews meet the guidelines above and notice when reviews are critical for opposite reasons. Reconciling and synthesizing reviews may require reading the full manuscript, keeping tabs on which reviewers respect the guidelines, and finding additional reviewers if warranted.

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