Do You Have Tips for Writing a Helpful Review?
Heidi L. Vermette, Production Editor
In their yearly thank-you message to our reviewers, the Editors of Obstetrics & Gynecology
state that reviewers “play an essential but generally unappreciated role in scientific communication. A skillful reviewer is the main assurance that new publications are reliable and important, and so a journal is only as good as its reviewers.” Last week we gave you a suggested procedure for completing your Green Journal review
, but what qualities make a review exceptional? The overall criteria are described in our Reviewer Grading Scale
, and are as follows:
- The review is comprehensive, objective, and insightful.
- The review evaluates the purpose of the study, study design, scientific validity, and conclusions.
- Suggestions for the author are numbered.
- Constructive suggestions to be addressed by the author are given.
- Comments to the editor are included addressing whether this is something new and important and useful to the journal’s readers.
- The review is returned very promptly.
The “Comments to the Editor” should be brief (1-2 sentences is often ideal) and can be fairly informal and to the point. 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 these:
- Is the content unique, or is this a “me-too” study? Is the material not already in the literature?
- Is the manuscript scientifically accurate?
- Is it clinically useful? We do not publish many basic science articles, because in most cases they will not have direct clinical applications.
- Does it meet the “common sense” rule? That is, do the authors’ results and associations seem plausible?
- 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 Author,” on the other hand, should be written knowing 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:
- Number your comments.
- Include the line numbers from the manuscript in your comments when appropriate, to aid the author in revising the manuscript.
- 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.
- Remember to keep your review focused and practical. Restrict your comments to elements that are fixable in the context of what the manuscript is.
Looking for more guidance on being a reviewer? Take a look at the home page of our submission system, Editorial Manager (http://ong.editorialmanager.com).
Special thanks to Nancy C. Rose, MD (current Editorial Board member), and James R. Scott, MD (Editor-in-Chief), for their ideas on reviewing a manuscript.