Nursing Research

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Reviewer Guidelines


Thorough, informed, fair narrative reviews help authors improve their work and assist the Editor in the editorial process. Scientists and quantitative methodologists who serve on Nursing Research review panels are all experts who have published their own research; their comments provide essential guidance to support publication of the best papers contributing to the editorial mission of Nursing Research:       

The editorial purpose of Nursing Research is to disseminate empirical findings from the highest quality basic and clinical research studies on (a) health and illness experiences of individuals, families, and communities across the life span; (b) impact of therapeutic actions on health promotion, disease prevention, comfort during illness, and peace at end of life; and (c) nursing systems and nursing resource management; and (d) translation of research findings to practice. Research across the spectrum of biological, behavioral, psychosocial, and spiritual factors is published.

Meta-analysis and meta-synthesis papers are welcome. Nursing Research invites integrative reviews of current advances in basic biological sciences and translational research relevant to emerging areas of nursing science. Areas of interest include but are not limited to topics in: genetics, genomics, and epigenetics; systems biology/integrative physiology; neuroscience and imaging; computational biology; microbiology and the human microbiome; nanoscience; physiology in situ and mobile health devices. Papers about nursing education should focus on nurse scientist development at all career stages.

Editorial Manager
The review process is supported by Editorial Manager, an on-line manuscript management system. Authors submit their papers to the Editorial Manager system. Reviewers access assigned manuscripts and submit their reviews via Editorial Manager, where the Editor accesses all materials. The Managing Editor oversees operation of Editorial Manager.

Conflict of Interest
A conflict of interest or appearance of a conflict may include (a) personal conflict [a good or bad relationship with the author or institution], (b) financial conflict [e.g., stock in a drug company or competing technology], (c) intellectual conflict [a strong interest in seeing the research published or not published], or (d) other conflict that you identify. If you have a conflict of interest, or appearance of a conflict, related to an assigned manuscript, we ask that you decline to review the manuscript; we will reassign it.

All material in the manuscript is confidential. Please do not share the manuscript or its contents with anyone else.

Protection of Human and Animal Research Participants
Authors must have taken steps to protect human and animal research participants. A statement of approval of the protocol by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) for humans or an institutional Animal Care and Use committee in the United States or a parallel process in other countries is needed. Descriptions of cases should not be so specific that an individual is identifiable. Any concerns about protection of human and animal research participants should be communicated.

Review Overview
Organization and Content
There are four parts to your review: (a) reviewer recommendation, (b) overall manuscript rating and ratings of parts of the manuscript, (c) confidential comments to editor, and (d) comments to author. 

Reviewer Recommendation
Based on overall assessment of manuscript quality and importance of the topic, reviewers submit an advisory recommendation about disposition of the manuscript for the consideration of the Editor. Options are to accept, accept with minor changes, maybe accept with revisions, or reject.  The recommendations of each reviewer are held in confidence by the Editor; the author and other reviewers do not have access to these recommendations and they are not communicated to them. 

Manuscript Ratings
You are asked to provide an overall rating using a 0-100 scale (0 = completely unacceptable and trivial to 100 = important, timely, and of highest quality with respect to content and preparation of the manuscript). 

Ratings for parts of the manuscript are provided (1 = adequate, 2 = inadequate, and 3 = not appropriate). These ratings help the reviewer to identify parts of the manuscript that are especially in need of comment and direct the attention of the Editor to parts of the paper in need of improvement.

Value of the topic, reader interest, important, priority and overall value are assessed using a short rating scale (1 = no value to 5 = optimal).

Confidential Comments to the Editor
Please reserve the comments-to-editor section for issues you judge not suitable for the author. Examples of information to include in confidential comments to editor include (a) concerns about misconduct regarding the research or the manuscript, (b) comments that may be useful to the editor but would disclose the reviewer's identity, (c) concerns about duplicate publication or overlapping publication; or (d) or any other concern that a reviewer wants to submit confidentially

Comments to the Author
Comments to the author should be organized around major sections of the manuscript and contain comments on each major section. Too brief a report is not helpful because it is not clear whether the reviewer has read and reflected on the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript. A narrative of approximately two single-spaced pages is usually sufficient to provide substantive detail to guide the author and inform the editor. Both authors and editor appreciate detailed reviews, although when manuscripts are either uniformly excellent or very poor, a summary of strengths and weakness for major sections may be sufficient.

Use complete sentences in order to convey meaning most effectively; avoid use of questions and colloquial expressions as they may not be clear to authors. Frequently, authors from other countries are not familiar with idiomatic or colloquial English. Simple sentences convey meaning clearly. In general, avoid a line-by-line commentary when you write your comments to the Author.

Please do not place information that reveals your identity in your comments to the Author. Because of print space restrictions we are not able to publish many meritorious manuscripts. Therefore, do not include your recommendation about publication in the Comments to the Author.

Excellent reviews require several hours to complete. Reviewers report that they first read the manuscript and make marginal notes; then they write the review. If needed, they check reference material. Later, they review the manuscript and the review and make revisions before submission. The Editor and Managing Editor are available to provide support and assistance as needed to reviewers, most commonly by e-mail.

Predoctoral Students and Postdoctoral Trainees (Mentees)

Participation in peer review is a key component of engagement in science. Nursing Research is pleased to offer the opportunity to involve pre-doctoral students and postdoctoral trainees in the peer review process under the following conditions: (a) a reviewer must request permission to supervise a mentee in the review of a specific manuscript; (b) the name, e-mail, and position of the mentee must be provided’  (c) the reviewer must agree to convey information about the peer review process to the mentee and ensure that ethical standards, including confidentiality, are met, and (d) no work on the review may be undertaken by the supervised mentee until written permission from the Editor is received by the reviewer.

APPROACH TO THE REVIEW: Comments to the Author
Reviews of regular research articles should address each of the following parts of the manuscript. Address strengths and weakness, and make suggestions for improvement when appropriate.

Problem Statement. Comment on the significance of the problem to nursing and relevance to developing the body of knowledge. The problem statement should appear before the design and methods in the manuscript. If hypotheses are appropriate to the study, comment on their linkage to the problem statement and (if appropriate) theoretical framework. Comment on the adequacy of the identification and definition of variables and the relationships between them.

Background Literature. Comment on the development of the background literature as a context for the need for the study and as a clear link to a gap in knowledge. Comment on the thoroughness of the literature presented and on the quality of the evidence used to support the problem under study. The literature review should connect the problem to the theoretical framework or knowledge gap addressed. The background literature should describe the current state of the science and provide motivation for the research reported in the paper under review.

Theoretical framework. Comment on whether a theoretical framework is articulated and on the fit of the theory to the research problem. Comment on the adequacy of definitions of concepts.

Research design and method. Address the strengths and weaknesses of the research design in light of the problem statement. Comment on design features including setting, population, sample, sampling technique, instrumentation/measures and data collection procedures. Comment on the adequacy of measurement of variables. 

Data analysis. Comment on the completeness of the analysis plans related to the problem statement, and the adequacy of the statistical model in representing the research problem. Address the appropriateness of the tests and the adequacy of descriptions of the analysis. If qualitative analysis was used, comment on the adequacy of the linkage between the problem statement and the data analysis approach and on the adequacy of the description of the steps taken in the analysis.

Results. Comments on completeness of the results as related to the problem statement and hypotheses and the appropriateness of the analysis presented. Comment on the adequacy of descriptive statistics and the use of figures and tables.

Discussion. Comment on the relevance of the discussion to the results and background literature. In journals such as Nursing Research that use the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2010), Discussion is reserved for evaluation and interpretation of the results. The author should address the similarities and differences between results presented and the literature, which should be used to clarify and confirm conclusions. The author should refer back to the literature presented in the Background but new literature citations should not be introduced in the Discussion. Comment on the description of study limitations.

Organization and style of presentation. Comment on the organization and writing style of the manuscript including the content of the manuscript as related to inclusion of all information needed to understand the research and the exclusion of unnecessary information.

Summary. A closing summary statement that lists the strengths and weaknesses of the paper and indicates the overall significance of the research is appreciated. Place findings in the context of relevant literature.

Brief Report and Methods Reviews
The narrative review of a manuscript submitted for Brief Report or Methodology should reflect assessment of the major components of the report. The outline for review of primary reports (above) should be adapted.

Special Considerations
Randomized Clinical Trials (RCTs)Beginning January 1, 2015, primary reports of RCTs will only be submitted for peer review if they have been registered at a site approved by WHO ( or ICMJE (

Reports of RCTs should meet CONSORT standards. We encourage reviewers to visit  and to use the CONSORT checklist with specific attention to items that if inadequately reported are associated with biased estimates of treatment effect as well as information essential to evaluate the reliability and relevance of the results. The CONSORT Checklist can be accessed at and the Flow Diagram can be accessed at The CONSORT Website is updated frequently and to assure that you are using current information it is important that you visit the Web site.

Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses. Reviewers are encouraged to use the PRISMA statement in their assessment of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. The PRISMA statement is available at

Other Reporting Guidelines. Guidelines for reporting findings from a wide variety of study designs are available at the Equator Network:  

Biology Reviews. Biology Reviews are assessed in the following domains: (a) significance of the advance in biology to emerging priorities in nursing science; (b) accuracy of the information; (c) usefulness to nurse investigators; (d) usefulness to readers, including practicing nurses; (e) organization and writing style; (f) quality of the tables and figures; and (g) quality of the reference list (inclusion of seminal works, is the list up to date).


With permission of all authors of a paper, selected manuscripts, peer review documents, and selected correspondence with the Editorial Office will be posted on the Nursing Research LWW Website at to provide readers, authors, and reviewers with information about the review process. Any review submitted to Nursing Research may be posted anonymously as part of post-publication open review. Goals of post-publication open manuscript review are to (a) help authors improve their writing and their response to reviews and (b) provide reviewers with examples of reviews submitted by others. Manuscripts and reviews are selected for educational purposes to support continuous improvement in the editorial process and to make the review process more transparent.

Nursing Research is committed to optimizing the peer review process for authors, reviewers, and editorial staff. In order to improve the peer review process, we continually monitor efficiency, effectiveness, and quality of products produced during peer review.

American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Hames, I. (2007). Peer review and manuscript management in scientific journals guidelines for good  practice. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing.

Reviewers from some jurisdictions may receive continuing education credits for their peer review work. In order to receive CEUs, peer reviewers must indicate they want to earn CEUs, provide other required information including time expended on the review, and earn a satisfactory score on the quality of their review from the Editor. Reviews with satisfactory scores are comprehensive, addressing each manuscript component thoughtfully and critically.  The CEU process is integrated into Editorial Manager.

Nursing Research acknowledges the contributions of peer reviewers by publishing annually the names of those who have contributed in the past year.  Thank you for your continuing support of Nursing Research. Your service is invaluable to the Nursing Research review process and the advancement of nursing science.


Updated:  March 19, 2014