​​​​​​​​​​​​​Information for New Reviewers and Current Reviewers

(Revised July 10, 2017)

If you are interested in reviewing for Obstetrics & Gynecology ​and are visiting this page for the first time--welcome! We hope you find this information useful. Please also be sure to fill out the reviewer information form​ and submit it to the editorial office via email (obgyn@greenjournal.org).

If you are a current reviewer and looking for more information, we welcome you as well, and thank you for serving as a peer reviewer for Obstetrics & Gynecology. Reviewers play an essential but generally underappreciated role in scientific publishing. A skillful reviewer is the main assurance that new publications are reliable and based on sound empirical evidence, and so a journal is only as good as its reviewers.

The peer-review process has been used in scientific and medical publishing for almost two centuries. It is the process whereby the community of scientists vets and accepts or rejects the validity and importance of new manuscripts submitted for publication. Reviewers also commonly provide feedback that helps the authors improve their manuscripts. The peer-review process has many strengths and some weaknesses.

Performing and documenting a review is a skill like any other that can be learned and improved. These materials are being provided so you can submit the most useful review possible with minimal stress on your part.
​ 

Responsibilities of a Reviewer:

​The World Association of Medical Editors (http://www.wame.org) has educational materials online for editors, and these include a list of reviewer responsibilities:

  1. Evaluate manuscripts critically but constructively.
  2. Prepare detailed comments about the research and manuscript to help authors improve their work.
  3. Recommend to the editor whether the paper is suitable for the journal.
  4. Declare real or perceived conflicts of interests—this may be personal or professional—anything that would prevent the reviewer from providing an objective analysis of the work.
  5. Treat the manuscript as confidential (eg, reviewers may not contact others about the work).
  6. Avoid making derogatory comments to the authors.
  7. Refrain from using the work they review in any way in their own work.
  8. Avoid communicating directly with the authors.

List modified from: World Association of Medical Editors. Syllabus for prospective and newly appointed editors. Reviewers—their responsibilities, selection, and rewards. Available at: http://www.wame.org/about/syllabus-for-prospective-and-newly-appointed#Reviewers. Retrieved June 21, 2017. 

We also strongly urge all of the journal’s reviewers to read:


Completing Your Review:

During the reviewer registration process in Editorial Manager, you were asked to select topics in which you have expertise so that we can appropriately direct articles to you for review. Peer reviewers should be knowledgeable about the topic or methods used in the manuscript, and if you find that we’ve incorrectly assigned a paper to you, please decline the review and let us know why in your comments.

As a content expert, we are asking you to put the work into context and perspective. Does the work offer new or important confirmatory information about a clinically relevant topic? The journal values positive studies, negative studies, and studies that refute previously published findings.

When you receive a request to review a paper, there are several steps that we recommend you take.

  1. Quickly examine the request to make sure that you are a content expert for the topic or methodologies used.
  2. Make sure that you don’t have any conflicts related to the writers, topic, or funding sources.
  3. Confirm that you have time to complete the review in the allotted, 14-day period. It can take 2–8 hours to complete a review and if you are at a period in your life that will simply preclude that, we would much rather you decline it early rather than late. We strive to have a rapid submission-to-decision period for our authors and your honesty on this point is important.
  4. Read the manuscript, perhaps making notes of specific issues you want to address in your review.
  5. Search the literature for similar articles. In your reviewer menu on Editorial Manager, there is a link to “Similar Articles in MEDLINE” that will bring up a list of comparable articles.
  6. Read the manuscript again.
  7. Make notes or an informal outline of what you want to tell the editor.
  8. Write your review (one page or less is sufficient). It is a good idea to complete your “Comments to the Author” and Comments to the Editor” in a word-processing program so that you can save them for later and run them through spellcheck.
  9. Reread your review for clarity, helpfulness to the authors and editor, and correctness.
  10. Complete the reviewer form.

In the event that you are no longer available to complete a review you have already accepted, please contact the editorial office to have the assignment removed from your account.

Special thanks to Nancy C. Rose, MD (former Editorial Board member), and James R. Scott, MD (Editor Emeritus), for their ideas on reviewing a manuscript. 

 

​Comments to the Authors:

This is the section where you will provide constructive feedback to the authors about their research and manuscript. Please begin your feedback with a general comment that indicates that you understood the article you are reviewing. An example is: “This is a nested cohort study performed at three institutions testing the hypothesis that oral contraceptive pill use decreases the risk of acne.” Your review should move from the general to the specific and should be focused and practical.

Keep in mind that an author needs to respond specifically to criticism, so you should confine your evaluation to a functional change that will improve the manuscript whether accepted or not. (Many rejected manuscripts are eventually published in other journals.) It is most helpful to the author if you follow these guidelines:

  1. ​Number your comments.
  2. Include the line numbers from the manuscript in your comments when appropriate, to aid the author in revising the manuscript.
  3. Any manuscript accepted by Obstetrics & Gynecology is copyedited, so don’t feel the need to correct spelling or grammatical errors. You can, however, point out a manuscript’s generally poor spelling and grammar if they make it difficult for the reader to understand what is being said.
  4. Remember to keep your review focused and practical. Restrict your comments to elements that are fixable in the context of what the manuscript is. Focus on the purpose of the study, study design and analysis, scientific validity, and conclusions.

Some examples of constructive Comments to the Authors include:

  • ​“Results: Your data combine patients with and without a prior vaginal delivery. In your introduction (Line 75), you state that your study focuses on patients with a previous cesarean who now desires a TOLAC. Can you separate your data out in the analysis?”
  • “You report data over a period of 20 years. Treatment may have changed in this time, thus creating confounding effects. Consider presenting your data in quartiles to minimize this problem.”
  • “This report is very long, with several redundancies. For instance, Figure 2 adds nothing to the text and the substance of Table 3 is repeated on lines 267-275.”

Comments to the Editors:

The “Comments to the Editors” section is optional, but it provides reviewers the opportunity to give a confidential bottom-line assessment of the manuscript. These comments should be brief (1–2 paragraphs is often ideal) and can be fairly informal and to the point. You do not need to copy the “Comments to Authors” into the “Comments to Editors” section, as the editors will see both.

These comments allow you an opportunity to refocus on what you think the disposition of a manuscript should be. Some basic questions the editors ask themselves when considering the disposition of a manuscript are:

  1. ​Is the content unique, or is this a “me-too” study? Is the material not already in the literature?
  2. Is the manuscript scientifically accurate?
  3. Is it clinically useful? (We do not publish many basic science articles, because in most cases they will not have direct clinical applications.)
  4. Does it meet the “common sense” rule? That is, do the authors’ results and associations seem plausible?
  5. Will it be of interest to our readers, most of whom are doctors in practice looking for information that will help them better counsel and treat their patients? A manuscript may be excellent, but not appropriate for our audience.
The Comments to the Editor is also the section of the review where you would comment on any ethical concerns you have with the manuscript. These might include suspected plagiarism (although for all accepted papers, we do an online plagiarism screen), fraud, or patient confidentiality breeches.

Some examples of useful “Comments to Editors” are:

  • “This RCT was well-done; however there is already a lot in the literature on this subject and this study does not appear to offer anything new.”
  • “The methodology appears to be sound, but this topic is of limited interest to our readers; a subspecialty journal might be a more appropriate venue.”
  • “Interesting question but the study simply doesn’t have enough power to answer it.”


What Qualities Make a Review Exceptional?

The overall criteria for an exceptional review are described in our Reviewer Grading Scale, and are as follows:

  1. ​The review is comprehensive, objective, and insightful.
  2. The review evaluates the purpose of the study, study design, scientific validity, and conclusions.
  3. Suggestions for the author are numbered.
  4. Constructive suggestions to be addressed by the author are given.
  5. Comments to the editor are included addressing whether this is something new and important and useful to the journal’s readers.
  6. The review is returned very promptly.​

​After You’ve Submitted Your Review:

Your work as a reviewer shouldn’t stop after submitting the review. Take the time to read and consider the other reviews when a final decision is made by the editors. (You’ll receive a copy of the final decision letter via e-mail. You can also log-in to Editorial Manager, navigate to the manuscript in your “Completed Assignments” folder, and click on “View Decision Letter.”) Reading the other reviews can give you insight into the manuscript itself (and things you might have missed), and it can also make you a better reviewer. Most importantly, if the article is ultimately published, read the published version. This way, you can get a sense of how your contribution has benefited the scientific literature as a whole.


Other Resources:

In addition to the materials in the Appendix, we recommend consulting the following sources:

  1. Obstetrics & Gynecology Reviewer Guidelines. Available at: http://edmgr.ovid.com/ong/accounts/revguide.pdf​. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
  2. Committee on Publication Ethics. COPE ethical guidelines for peer reviewers. Available at: https://publicationethics.org/files/Ethical_Guidelines_For_Peer_Reviewers_2.pdf​​​. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
  3. Durning SJ, Carline JD, eds. Review Criteria for Research Manuscripts, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: Association of American Medical Colleges; 2015. Available at: https://members.aamc.org/eweb/upload/Review%20Criteria%20For%20Research%20Manuscripts.pdf. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
  4. Moher D, Jadad AR. How to peer review a manuscript. In: Godlee F, Jefferson T, editors. Peer review in health sciences. 2nd ed. London: BMJ Publishing Group; 2003. p. 183–190.
  5. Raff J. How to become good at peer review: A guide for young scientists. Available at: http://violentmetaphors.com/2013/12/13/how-to-become-good-at-peer-review-a-guide-for-young-scientists/​. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
 

Frequently Asked Questions:

​​Modified from “Friday FAQs on O&G” blog posts from March 2013 through May 2013 (© 2013 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists).

How Do I Become a Reviewer for the Green Journal?

As a peer-reviewed journal, Obstetrics & Gynecology relies significantly on a pool of expert reviewers to help the editors decide which submissions are the most scientifically accurate, clinically useful, and unique, among other important characteristics. These reviewers also provide crucial advice to both the editorial team and the authors on how to make a manuscript the best it can be.

We’re always looking for new people to lend a fresh perspective. Interested in becoming a reviewer? Complete the Reviewer Contact Information Update Form and submit it to the Journal office by e-mail (obgyn@greenjournal.org) or by fax at 202-479-0830. The editors will then assign you reviews on a test basis.

You’ll notice that the form asks you to choose from a list of classification terms. Choose wisely! If you’re selected as a reviewer, these terms will be used to match you to manuscripts in your area of expertise.

Please know that you don’t have to be a leader in your field or a department chair to be a reviewer. The Journal needs people who can provide thoughtful analysis of the subject and be the “person in the street.” The editors want to know--how will this article affect practice?


How Are R​​eviewers Selected for Each Manuscript?

Here in the editorial office, we’re constantly playing a game of Manuscript Matchmaker. To every paper with the potential to be Journal-worthy, the editors must assign the reviewers who have the specific savvy to help us get it there – or to tell us why it shouldn’t make the cut.

The main way reviewers are selected for a manuscript is by measuring their compatibility with that manuscript’s classifications. When interested parties sign up to review for the Journal, they are asked to select from a list of categories in which they have particular expertise—for example, obesity, gynecologic surgery, preterm labor. When an author submits a manuscript, he/she is asked to categorize it using these same categories.

When the editors are searching for the perfect reviewer for a paper, Editorial Manager scans the pool for the reviewers that have the most classification matches with that manuscript. If you match up well, and you’ve got a good reviewer record—including strong reviews and timely turnaround—we might just choose you!

Sometimes, the author of the manuscript suggests certain reviewers for their paper—people they feel would have good insight into the subject matter. Whether to use these suggested reviewers is entirely at the editor’s discretion.

Sometimes, too, after reading the manuscript, the editor may know just the person who would write a great review. The editor might then directly assign the manuscript to this reviewer based on his/her known expertise and reliability.

However the invitation lands in your mailbox, if you think you’re just not a good fit for a paper, please let us know. Perhaps your career has changed a bit, and your classifications need to be updated? Send us an email and let us know how we can fix it.

Also, it is every reviewer’s responsibility to notify us if they have a conflict of interest with a paper. If there’s any reason you wouldn’t be able to provide an objective review of a manuscript, please let us know as soon as possible.

What Happens to a Manuscript Going Through Review?

Most unsolicited submissions to Obstetrics & Gynecology are sent for peer review. Most article types (Original Research, Systematic Reviews, Current Commentaries, Clinical Practice and Quality, Procedures and Instruments, Clinical Expert Series, and Personal Perspectives), are reviewed by two experts and one of the journal’s Editorial Board members. Case Reports are reviewed by one expert and one Editorial Board member. The editors select reviewers based on factors like classification matches and past reviewer performance. Expert reviewers are given 14 days to complete the review. The journal’s Editorial Board member is given 21 days to complete a batch of 8 reviews per month. Per journal policy, the identities of the reviewers are not shared with the author.

When a reviewer is ready to submit his/her recommendation and comments in Editorial Manager, reviewers complete a form that contains several questions that the editors use to determine whether or not a submission is suitable for publication.

Reviewers are asked to complete several items on the review form:
  1. A recommendation (Accept, Revise, or Reject)
  2. Answers to one or more Likert scale questions to evaluate the submission’s fitness for the journal
  3. Comments to the Author (which are shared with the author)
  4. Comments to the Editor (which are confidential and are not shared with the author).
After a manuscript has been through review, the editors use the reviewers’ comments, as well as their own evaluation, to arrive at an initial decision. This entire process can take up to 6 weeks, depending on factors such as reviewer availability, holidays, requests for extensions, or statistical review.

Manuscripts that the editors believe could be made suitable for publication are sent back to the corresponding author for revision with all of the reviewers’ Comments to the Author. Manuscripts that are considered for rejection following the peer review process are reviewed by all three of the journal’s editors before a final decision is made (and then discussed during a weekly conference call). The reviewers’ Comments to Author are included in all rejection notifications.


Wh​at are the Responsibilities of a Reviewer?

Being a reviewer for Obstetrics & Gynecology involves taking on a set of responsibilities that begin when the editor sends a reviewer invitation to your e-mail. The invitation specifies the type of manuscript, the title of the manuscript, and the names of the authors. The first thing you will need to decide is if you are willing to accept the invitation. Before making the decision to accept it, you should consider the following:

​​​Do you have time to complete the review in the next 2 weeks?

If you have been an author, then you can appreciate how much a timely decision on a manuscript means to you. The journal allows revi​ewers 2 weeks to complete the review in order to maintain a timely turnaround for authors. If you don’t think you will have the time to complete the review, then decline to do it.

Do you have a conflict of interest?

The invitation contains the names of the authors. If an author is affiliated with your institution; if you have a relationship with the author(s), past or present, personal or professional; if you have prejudicial attitudes regarding the author(s) or the subject; then you should decline the invitation and specify the reason for declining.

If you have accepted the invitation to review the manuscript and find that you have a conflict of interest with the author(s), have a financial interest in the topic, or are in a competitive situation in a rapidly developing area of research, then you need to contact the journal office or the editor. If you are not certain about whether you have a conflict or not, then you should contact the editor who requested the review. The two of you can talk and decide if the review should continue or if you should be withdrawn as a reviewer.

Reviewers have the responsibility to keep the manuscript confidential. A manuscript under review represents a privileged communication that must be protected against exploitation. By accepting the assignment, reviewers agree to treat the manuscript they are reviewing confidentially. Please delete the manuscript when you have completed the review.

At Obstetrics & Gynecology, we appreciate the hard work, high ethical standards, and expertise that reviewers bring to their task. It’s one of the key aspects that contributes to the journal’s success. If you have any questions about the responsibilities of the reviewer, please contact the journal office at obgyn@greenjournal.org or 202-314-2317. We’re always glad to answer your questions!


I Agreed to Review a Manuscript, and Now I Realize I Can’t Do It. What Do I Do?

Once you accept the invitation to review a paper for Obstetrics & Gynecology, you are able to download the manuscript from Editorial Manager, our online submission system. Since you are only provided with the article title and author names in the reviewer invitation letter, you may realize after you download the manuscript that you have a conflict of interest that precludes you from completing an unbiased review. Such conflicts could be personal, professional, financial, intellectual, political or religious, as outlined in the Committee on Publication Ethics Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers​. If you have any concerns about a potential conflict, contact the editor or editorial office to discuss the situation in more detail. You can find further discussion of this topic on last week’s blog post on the responsibility of reviewers.

It is also possible that during your 14-day review period you may find yourself in an unexpected situation such as a personal emergency or increased workload that prevents you from completing the review. What should you do? Please e-mail (obgyn@greenjournal.org) or call (202-314-2317) the editorial office and let us know that you can’t complete the review. We recognize that unexpected situations occur and will gladly reassign the manuscript to another reviewer. We appreciate when reviewers contact us as early in the process as possible. We aim to notify our authors of an initial decision within 4-6 weeks of submission. If another reviewer needs to be assigned to a manuscript, the earlier the editor knows this the better to avoid delaying the overall review process.

After we hear from you by e-mail or phone, you will be “uninvited” as a reviewer. Although that sounds harsh, the only thing that happens is another e-mail is generated from Editorial Manager notifying you that you are no longer assigned as a reviewer. Your status as a reviewer will not be affected negatively because you are unable to complete a review due to a conflict or other unexpected situation. By letting us know of the situation early, you help us out and will surely be called upon to review for us again in the future!
 

I Heard Reviewers Are Graded: Is This True?

​The answer to this question is “true.” Reviewers are graded after completing each review, on a scale of 1-5, by the editor handling that particular manuscript. The editors have graded reviews for several years in an effort to make sure reviewers are well selected, that reviews are helpful to authors, and that they are completed in a timely manner. 

The editors use a rating system so that everyone who reviews is treated fairly. Reviews are graded on a 1-5 scale, with 5 being exceptional and 1 being poor.

  • A score of 5 is reserved for the exceptional review, the rare outstanding critique that is comprehensive, objective, and insightful. An exceptional review evaluates purpose of the study, study design, scientific validity, and conclusions by numbering questions and constructive suggestions to be addressed by the author. It also Includes comments to the editor about whether this is something new and important and useful to our readers and the review is submitted promptly. Approximately 10% of reviews are considered exceptional and are given a 5.
  • A score of 4 indicates a very good review. This is an excellent review that indicates that the paper was carefully evaluated. It includes helpful comments to the author and editor with well-documented reasons for the decision and is returned within the two week deadline. A score of 4 is given to approximately 25% of reviews.
  • A score of 3 is given for the average, satisfactory review. The analysis not as well organized, documented, or as complete as above but is reasonable with adequate comments for the authors. A score of 3 is given to approximately 50% of reviews.
  • A score of 2 is given to a very poor review and is considered below average. This review is very brief and not well evaluated. The reasons for the decision are not explained and comments to the authors are not helpful. This also includes reviews that are received very late. The score of 2 is given to approximately 10% of reviews.
  • A score of 1 is given to 5% or less of reviews. They are considered unacceptable. A reviewer who receives a score of 1 may not be considered for further review. Reasons for grade could include evidence of bias; unfair, faulty reasoning; and comments to author either absent, inappropriate, or inadequate to explain how the paper was rated. It also includes reviewers who had to be prodded to get their reviews in.
​Those who consistently score “1” or “2” may be dropped as reviewers. In this way, we can ensure that our review process helps our authors to improve their manuscripts, and helps the editors to select the best submissions for publication.​​