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Letter From the Editors

Conducting a Peer Review

Novice or Expert

Section Editor(s): Brandon, Debra PhD, RN, CCNS, FAAN; McGrath, Jacqueline M. PhD, RN, FNAP, FAAN

Author Information
doi: 10.1097/ANC.0000000000000238
  • Free

Have you ever been asked to be a manuscript reviewer? Are you a reviewer for another journal? Well you are now being asked to consider being a reviewer for Advances in Neonatal Care (ANC). Whether you are a novice or experienced reviewer, ANC could use your neonatal expertise. Peer review is essential to the continued success of our journal and to ensure timely constructive feedback to our authors.

The purpose of peer review is to ensure that a manuscript, whether clinical or research focused, provides an ethical scholarly contribution to the literature. Like writing a manuscript, peer review requires appropriate expertise for the manuscript type (eg, clinical topic, quality improvement, research method) and the time and dedication to provide a timely objective review. For detailed information about ANC's review process, see the “Files and Resources” section on Editorial Manager at Our reviewer guidelines, updated in December 2014, provide information about the technical aspects of using Editorial Manager as well as how to complete the detailed review. In this editorial, we provide you with information about the key ingredients in a good manuscript review.

Before accepting a reviewer assignment you must ask yourself 3 questions:

  1. Do I have the substantive knowledge to conduct the review? This does not mean you must be an expert in every aspect of the manuscript and or project design. So consider even if the topic is an area of expertise when the project design is not, or vice versa. Your review will still be valuable to the author. We invite 3 reviewers to participate in a manuscript review because we expect that their reviews will complement each other and provide a broader, more objective review of the relevance of the work.
  2. Do I have the time to conduct the review within the editor's suggested time frame?
  3. Do I have any potential or actual conflicts of interest? An example of a conflict would be a financial interest in a product discussed in the manuscript. If you have a potential conflict, you do not have to decline the reviewer invitation, but you should inform the editor so that the editor can make an informed decision.

Consider the following organizing process for conducting the review:

  1. Read the entire manuscript before beginning the detailed critique. After the initial reading of the manuscript, you should have a good idea of the authors' primary goal(s). Very experienced reviewers may be ready to begin the detailed written reviews depending upon the quality of the manuscript. However, multiple reads are likely depending upon the quality of the manuscript and the reviewer's experience. General questions you should be able to answer with the initial readings include:
  2. Do the authors provide novel or updated information?Is the manuscript well written, clear, and concise (free of repetition)?How can the manuscript be improved? Your ideas about how the manuscript can be improved will provide the substance for your written review.
  3. The review text should include the following:
  4. A summary paragraph describing the purpose of the manuscript and the novel or updated contribution. If you have difficulty writing this paragraph, then the quality of the manuscript will likely require major revisions and therefore your specific feedback will need to be extensive to be of assistance to the authors.Detailed feedback by each area of the manuscript. Reviewers should comment on each area, even when well done. Providing a positive comment on an area of the manuscript that is well done can provide encouragement to an author who may have other significant revisions to make. Author guidelines for the appropriate manuscript structure for each section (eg, Evidence-Based Practice Briefs) of ANC can be found at A reviewer's detailed feedback should specify the content that needs to be clarified and suggestions for improvement.Evaluate the necessity and clarity of the tables and figures included and the need for tables not included.Evaluate the references for relevance and absence of important references. Make sure the references are newer (<5 years old) and provide the appropriate support for the manuscript content. Older seminal references are acceptable.Assess the abstract's accurate summary of the manuscript. As with writing a manuscript, reviewers should assess the abstract last. Make sure the abstract is structured according to the author guidelines.
  5. Provide your recommended disposition of the manuscript as either accept, minor revision, major revision, or reject. As with most journals, articles with minor revisions are typically accepted for publication. Because of ANC's commitment to the development of new authors, unlike many journals manuscripts, manuscripts requiring major revisions are also typically accepted for publication as long as the authors make the recommended changes. This will take some perseverance on the part of the authors; manuscripts with major revisions may need to go through the review process multiple times before the manuscript is accepted for publication. Perseverance can pay off if the authors listen and amend their work on the basis of reviewer and editor comments. Do not shy away from this contribution to your profession. Every neonatal nurse has something to contribute in the review process, and you will learn about the process and writing for publication by providing reviews. Remember you can go back to the Editorial Manager Web site and look at the other reviews to see how yours compares. You will also receive follow-up letters that let you know about the progress of the manuscripts that you review. We award CEUs to those who provide quality reviews. This is a great way to earn CEUs, provide professional feedback, and learn something along the way.

Finally, we would like to remind all new and experienced reviewers of the ethical responsibility of reviewers. It is inappropriate for a reviewer to share the contents of a manuscript under review without the permission of one of the coeditors.

If you are interesting in becoming a reviewer for ANC, let us know. You can find our e-mail addresses at the end of this editorial. We are exploring ways to provide a “new reviewer orientation” session for those individuals wanting to learn how to be a more effective reviewer. As part of this process, one of the journal editors will provide you with feedback about how to improve specific reviews. We would also like to encourage you to go to the Web site for the journal Nursing Research for examples of good manuscript reviews. For several years, Nursing Research has provided examples of peer reviews and the authors' response to those reviews. Each of these examples provides evidence that a good peer review can significantly improve even the most experienced author's work (see

Finally, we want to thank all of our current reviewers for their service to the journal. Conducting peer review is rewarding when the published manuscript is of high quality and contributes to neonatal nursing. For new and continuing reviewers, we would also like to remind you that free continuing education credits are offered for quality reviews.

For authors, we want to clarify that manuscripts are sent out for peer review unless we make a decision to reject without review. The primary reason a coeditor may reject a manuscript without review is our assessment that the work is not appropriate for our journal readership. In this situation, we will provide authors with suggestions for other journals that may be more appropriate. A manuscript may also be rejected if it includes significant content without appropriate citation of previous work.

Debra Brandon, PhD, RN, CCNS, FAAN

Coeditor; Advances in Neonatal Care

Jacqueline M. McGrath, PhD, RN, FNAP, FAAN

Coeditor; Advances in Neonatal Care

© 2015 by The National Association of Neonatal Nurses