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How to Perform an Effective Peer Review

Are you invited to do a peer review for a journal or conference? Are you wondering how to write the review or where to start it? If you have any of these questions you are at the right place.

peer review

Doing a peer review is a great responsibility. You are responsible to give your unbiased opinion on an article to keep scientific community from false findings and inaccurate research while at the same time promoting legitimate good research that are fruits of years of countless hours at lab, discouragements, tears, and perseverance.

How Does Peer Review Work

  1. The author submits the manuscript to the journal
  2. The editor does an initial assessment of the manuscript. If the manuscript does not meet the initial requirements (aims and scopes of the journal), it is rejected by the editor. If it does meet the requirements then it goes to step 3.
  3. If the manuscript passes the initial assessment of the editor, it will be assigned to appropriate reviewers.
  4. Reviewers will send their assessments of the paper to the editor.
  5. The editor will read the reviews and based on them the decision for the paper is made. Sometimes the decision is made after rounds of several revisions and additional reviews.

If you are a visual learner then the following diagram can help you:

peer review process
Peer Review Process Diagram.

How to Let Editors Know That You Are Available for Conducting Peer Review

One of the best platforms that editors search for potential reviewers is through Publons. You can also let them know that you are available to conduct peer review. To do so, follow the following simple steps:

  1. If you’ve not done already, go to and follow the on-screen instructions to register to the Publons. Then Sign in and go to your Dashboard.
  2. On the right hand corner, click on the Browse and then Journals:peer review publons
  3. Then search for the name or publisher of the journal that you want to do the review service. In the list of the journals shown, click on your selected journal.
  4. When the new page for the journal pops up, click on “CLICK TO LET THEM KNOW”:peer review publons
  5. All Done! You let the editor of that journal know that you are available to review. Be sure to add your previous research and reviews to your profile and make it stand out.

Here is a video of the same process:

Important Tips to Conduct an Effective Peer Review

Now that you have passed the initial steps and been invited to conduct a peer review service, we congratulate you and refer you to some important tips to do as effective a review as possible.

Before you conduct the review of the article be sure to first check multiple things:

  1. First check that you do not have any conflict of interest with the authors of the article (Are they your colleagues or collaborators? Are they your competitors?). If that is OK and there is no conflicts of interest then move on to the next step.
  2. Ask yourself “Am I an expert in the field?” You do not have to know everything about the article you are reviewing but it should be in the scope of your expertise. If there is anything on the paper that you are not familiar with, disclose that to the editor in your review. For instance you can say that “Overall the results are clear and well-conducted, however I cannot say anything about the [Name of the result that you are not familiar with] since it is beyond my knowledge.” By doing so, the editor will trust your opinion and will seek advice from another expert on that special case.
  3. If the journal requires data or other resources for the submitted manuscript, check that they are submitted before conducting the review.
  4. Check the source of funding and make sure that the source of funding did not influence the findings of the research.
  5. If you suspect plagiarism, inform the editor before continuing the review. Copyrighted images (even your own images from other publications) should be used after obtaining proper permissions from the copyright holders.

When you have checked off all the initial considerations, now you are ready to move to do the review.

Step 1. Check to see if the journal has special instructions or forms for review. If it has a customized form, you have to fill in the review in that format, if they do not, use the general format provided to you below (The credit of this format goes to Dr. Madi’s Ph.D. advisor Dr. John P. Swensen):


Step 2. Start off by reading the abstract, conclusion, headings, figures, and tables. By this initial skimming, you get yourself familiarized with the key points of the paper and the style of writing of the authors.

Step 3. Read the paper thoroughly and critically from beginning to end and start taking notes. Ask yourself these questions. Is the idea original? Does the paper contribute significantly to the body of knowledge? Start thinking about the technical issues of the paper, and fill in the Review and Technical issues sections of the above general format. Be sure to give suggestions to the authors to revise their manuscript.

Step 4. Do a second read and this time, look for Minor editorial issues, grammar, typos, see if the references are up to date, aesthetics, and etc. Suggest proper revisions.

Step 5. Refine your review, and make sure to convey your decision to the editor (Major/Minor Revision, Accept, or Reject).

You have done and submitted your review, now what?

After you have done and submitted your review, it is now time to get recognition for it. Publons is a great accredited website to get recognition for your reviews. According to Wikipedia:

“Publons is a commercial website that provides a free service for academics to track, verify, and showcase their peer review and editorial contributions for academic journals.”

How to Add Your Completed Peer Reviews to Publons

  1. Go to and follow the on-screen instructions and register.
  2. Sign in to your Dashboard. Here is a look at Madi’s Dashboard:mahdieh babaiasl publons dashboard
  3. Then under My Record, click on the Peer Reviews, and then Add Review.publons peer review
  4. Here select if it is a Pre-publication or Post-publication review, and also add the name of the journal or conference and the date that you have completed the review:add peer review publons
  5. Scroll down and click Create Review.
  6. Now it is time to verify the review. Forward the “Thank You” email of the completed review to , and be sure to copy and paste the Review URL shown here in the email. peer review publons
  7. Now wait for the Publons team to add your review to the your profile! Simple!

Do You Want to be a Certified Reviewer?

If you would like to be a certified reviewer, Publons has a special course for this. If you graduate from the Publons Academy, you will be given a certificate that you can use to show that you have already been endorsed for being a reviewer. The course is free of charge and you can see it below:

Don’t forget to read more about interesting hacks in the link below:

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