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SOCW 4800: Student Peer Review, Editing, and Journal Publishing

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Introduction (Peer Review)

Normally you are trying to find resources that have been peer-reviewed; now, you are the ones performing the peer review!

For academic journals, the peer-review process is to make sure that the research methods and findings of a paper are accurate and make sense. If the reviewers determine that the paper is not fit to be published, they recommend that it is not published.

For this project, everyone who wishes to publish their paper can do so; therefore, your peer review is to make sure that these papers are the best they can be. In this stage, you are looking at the content of the paper--save the grammar and spelling for the copy-editing.

Checklist: What to Look For (Peer Review)

  • Does the title and introduction accurately reflect the content?
    • Because the ideas of a paper can change as it's being written, if the title and introduction were written before the rest of the paper, they may present a different idea than the full paper.
  • Is there a clear thesis or research question?
    • Ideally, you will find one in the introduction that sets out what will be addressed in the paper.
  • Does the paper answer the research question?
    • Do the points made link back to the thesis or question?
  • Are there elements to the paper that are not supported by evidence?
    • The author's own ideas and interpretations are vital to the paper; not every sentence requires a citation or a reference to another article. However, there may be a statement you notice that should be backed up by another source.
  • Are there citations when ideas or quotations from other sources are used?
  • Does the conclusion wrap up the points of the article?
  • Are there places where what is being said is unclear or ambiguous?

A Step-by-Step Guide (Peer Review)

The list above may seem overwhelming; give yourself enough time to consider each point. This step-by-step process is a suggestion to how you can go through the paper. Depending on how you work, you may want to go over the paper more than twice.

  1. Start by reading the paper over once.
    1. Make note what the paper is about (mark the thesis statement and main points) and what seems confusing. This will help you determine what will need work and comments.
  2. Go through the paper a second time, more slowly.
    1. Answer the questions in the above checklist.
    2. If the answers to these questions indicate that work is required, be specific (see "Tips for Writing Comments")
  3. Go through the paper additional times until you feel you have completed a thorough peer-review.

Tips for Writing Comments (Peer Review)

Be specific. For example, if there is no clear thesis or research question, indicate which sentence you think was intended to be the thesis statement, and where you expected to find it.

  • Instead of: "the thesis statement was weak," consider: "The thesis statement does not address the third point of the article--consider adding..."

Be helpful. The point of this exercise is to make sure that your papers are high quality, so you want to make sure your comments will help your classmate improve their paper.

  • Instead of: "this paragraph was confusing," consider: "this paragraph has two ideas that could be separated so their points are clearer"

Be clear. For each comment, indicate the page or paragraph you are talking about. Make sure that your advice makes sense.

Be kind. Remember that these are your classmate's papers. While you should provide honest feedback so the paper can improve, make sure your criticism is constructive. Critique the paper, not the author. Phrase your comments as suggestions rather than commands.

  • Instead of: "you should fix this point," consider: "I think this point could be improved by..."
  • Instead of: "No thesis??" consider: "I found that the introduction did not provide a strong enough thesis. I suggest..."

Point out the strengths of the paper as well as the weaknesses. Don't just focus on the negatives; many elements of the paper will be worthy of praise. Indicating these will help the author know what they are best at and feel confident about the rest of their paper.

Resources (Peer Review)

These resources were fundamental in creating this guide.