Our reviewers play a crucial role in the publication process with a wide range of responsibilities. We have developed some reviewer guidelines to support you at each stage of the process.
Before you review
You will receive an email inviting you to review for a journal, case study or book proposal with the option to accept or decline.
Here are some things to think about before you make your decision...
Journal editors are looking for reviews that are thorough and specific. If you are unsure whether you have the capacity to deliver that level of quality, you can always recommend a colleague who has more free time. If you might like to review for the journal when you are less busy, don’t forget to let the editor know.
The editor may not be familiar with the finer details of your work, so you are best placed to judge whether you have the expertise required. To help the editor match you with the right paper, please keep your ScholarOne accounts up to date with relevant keywords and institutional details.
If an editor asks you to carry out a review, it’s a good idea to respond confirming you’ve received their request, even if you are unsure yet whether you will accept. The period of time allocated for the review will vary per journal and the editor will inform you of the time-frame when they invite you.
Conflicts of interest
Fully disclose any potential conflict of interest; it won’t necessarily eliminate you but will help the editorial team make an informed decision, for example:
- Working in the same department/institute as an author
- Having co-written with an author in the past
- Professional or financial connections to the research
Respond to your review request
You can accept or decline your review request from your invite email. For journals and case studies, the manuscript or case will be sent to your reviewer centre on our editorial system, which you can access directly from your email.
Review the manuscript
You will be asked detailed questions to encourage you to consider all aspects of the manuscript. For journals and case studies, you will complete the fields on the Review and Score tab in the reviewer centre on ScholarOne. Although the questions may vary depending on the journal or publication, we have highlighted some areas for consideration.
As a reviewer, you are not responsible for spotting ethics issues in manuscripts but with your knowledge and expertise, you are often best placed to spot cases of fraud, plagiarism or possible defamation/libel. If you have reason to suspect ethical misconduct – either deliberate or accidental – please let the publisher or the editor know as soon as possible. You can find out more about the types of publishing issues you might encounter on our research and publication ethics guidelines page.
Does the article say something new and interesting? Does it add to the body of knowledge? Is the research question an important one? How does the manuscript compare to the most highly-cited or downloaded papers in the field? Tools such as Web of Science or Scopus can help answer these questions. If the research has been covered previously, forward any relevant references to the editor.
Layout and format
Each journal’s author guidelines contain instructions on manuscript presentation and authors are expected to follow these closely. If they don’t, and the editor hasn’t mentioned the omission in their invitation to review, you should flag the issue with the editor or highlight it in your review report. If the paper is particularly original or interesting, the editor may wait until they have decided to accept it before asking the author to reformat.
Does it clearly describe the article and include the most important keywords? (Consider how you search for research articles.) Does it demonstrate the significance of the research and make sense?
Have all mandatory fields been completed? Does the abstract accurately reflect the content of the article?
Does this describe what the author hoped to achieve and clearly articulate the research question? Has the author provided a summary of the current research literature to provide context? Is it clear how this is being challenged or built upon? Are there any important works that have been omitted?
Does the author accurately explain how the data was collected? Is the design suitable for answering the question posed? Does the article outline the procedures followed? If the methods are new, are they explained in detail? Is there sufficient information available for you to replicate the research? Was the sampling appropriate? Have the equipment and materials been adequately described? Does the article make it clear what type of data was recorded; has the author been precise in describing measurements?
These should be checked carefully – errors are common.
This is where the author should explain their findings. Are results presented clearly? You should consider the merits and appropriateness of the author’s analysis.
Are the claims in this section reasonable and supported by the results? Are the findings consistent with the author’s expectations? Do the conclusions adequately tie together the other elements of the paper? Does the article support or contradict previous theories? Does the author explain how the research has added to the body of knowledge?
Graphics and tables
Where these are included, please check the contents and, if possible, make suggestions for improvements. Do the figures and tables inform the reader? Are they an important part of the story? Do the figures describe the data accurately? Are they presented consistently (e.g. in the same format throughout)?
Does poor use of English make it difficult to follow the author’s argument? If this is the case, it’s not up to you to edit the text. Mention the problem in your review report and the editor may decide to refer the author to editing services, for example, Editage, a company we partner with.
Implications for research
Does the paper bridge the gap between theory and practice? How can the research be applied;
- In practice: What's the economic and commercial impact?
- In teaching?
- To influence public policy?
- In research: Does it contribute to the body of knowledge?
- For society: Is it influencing public attitudes or affecting quality of life?
Are these implications consistent with the findings and conclusions of the paper?
Quality of communication
Does the paper clearly express its case, measured against the technical language of the field and the expected knowledge of the journal’s readership? Has attention been paid to the clarity of expression and readability, such as sentence structure, jargon use, acronyms and so on?
Make your recommendation
You will make an overall recommendation to the editor or publisher to complete your review and they will take this into account when they make their decision. The most common recommendation criteria are:
- Minor revisions required
- Major revisions required
This varies from journal to journal. However, minor revisions often require the author to make relatively small adjustments to the paper, which don’t take much time. They might be related to author guideline requirements, e.g. a slight reduction in word count; formatting changes, such as the labelling of tables or figures; further evidence of an understanding of the research literature in the field; or a slight elaboration on the research findings.
Major revisions often require the author to make more significant improvements, the type which take weeks or even months, rather than days. Authors may be asked to address flaws in the methodology; collect more data; conduct a more thorough analysis; or even adjust the research question to ensure the paper contributes something truly original to the body of work.
Are you still unsure?
If you’re still unsure, read more about becoming an Emerald reviewer.
Peer review process
Our helpful peer review infographics guide you through each step of the process. We also explain some of the peer review models you might encounter and explore their pros and cons.
Become a reviewer
Whether this is your first time reviewing or you are a seasoned professional, we explain why you should say yes next time an editor asks you to review.
Publishing ethics guidelines
Read our publishing ethics guidelines and our commitment to COPE.