Peer Review Guidelines

Golden Rule: “Review for others as you would have others review for you” (McPeek et al., 2009, P. E157).

The following page outlines how to conduct a peer review for MUSe. Interested in becoming a student peer reviewer? Visit Become a Peer Reviewer

Starting a Peer Review

Upon receiving an email request to peer review a work, log into the MUSe website to check the review deadline and accept or decline the request. 

After accepting a request and while logged into the site, you will be able to view a copy of the work.

Begin by going through the submission once, noting your initial impressions or thoughts. Next, go over it a second time more critically and begin to formulate your review in accordance with the guidelines detailed below. Once you’ve written your review, you may wish to check the submission a third time to make sure the information in your review is accurate.

Each time you analyze the work, remember that as a reviewer for MUSe, your goal is to provide the author or creator with effective, constructive feedback, and the editor with a reasonably detailed evaluation of the work. You are here to determine whether it is suitable for publication, as well as if there are areas for improvement. 

Section Editors have a mentorship role throughout this process and may provide guidance at their discretion.

Filling out the Peer Review Form

When you are ready to provide written feedback, fill out the MUSe peer review form or a separate document with your feedback (as specified by your Section Editor), which should contain the following sections:

  1. Brief Summary of Work
  • In your own words, briefly summarize the main point(s) of the work to demonstrate your understanding. 
  1. Reviewers’ Overall Comments
  • Think of your overall comments as a “take-home” message for the editor. Provide an overview of the work’s strengths and weaknesses. 
  • You might consider ending this section with your overall recommendation (i.e., accept, accept with revisions, revise and resubmit, reject).
  1. Greatest Strengths of Work
  • Each piece of work has its merits. Be sure to congratulate the author on the strengths of their work. 
    • This might include feedback on things like how well-written the work was, the ingenuity of the thesis, strong evidence-based arguments, solid research design, the amount of research that went into developing ideas, or effective use of colour and composition in a creative work. 
  1. Significant Concerns
  • Your review should focus on the academic or creative content of the work rather than focusing on typographic issues like grammar and spelling errors.
  • Often, reviewers will divide their concerns into major or minor issues. 
    • Major issues include notable aspects of the academic content that are missing, inadequate, or incoherent, as well as structural problems. It is important to clearly indicate what the major issues are; provide specific examples to make it clear what the underlying problem is.
    • Minor issues might include necessary clarifications, data presentation, wording, and missing references (if noticed). You are not expected to be a copy editor or proofreader, but you should point out glaring errors that will detract from readers’ understanding (e.g., misspelled species names). 
  • When noting specific concerns about a paper, always refer to specific page numbers, sections, figures, or tables.
  1. Suggested Improvements
  • The best reviewers provide specific recommendations. Provide concrete examples of what the author or creator can do to improve their work. The suggestions should be realistic, and the author or creator should be able to incorporate them. For example, suggesting that the authors conduct a completely new research study or creative work is not realistic. Focus on how the author or creator can improve what they have already developed.

It is good practice to number each item in your review so that your comments are easy to follow. 

When complete read (and spellcheck) your peer review! 

Remember: Keep the contents of any manuscript you’re reviewing confidential. Do not discuss the manuscript or its contents with others.

Disciplinary Considerations

Research Papers

Here are some key questions to consider when reviewing research papers (not all questions may apply): 

  • Introduction: Does the author provide a thorough summary of the literature? Are the key terms adequately defined? Has the research question/hypothesis/thesis been clearly stated? Is this a valuable research question? What’s new about this research? Why does it matter? 
  • Body/method/results (where applicable): Is the methodology complete enough to be reproducible? Are the results described in an organized manner? Are the tables and figures used appropriately? Is there a logical flow of arguments?
  • Discussion/conclusion: Does the author’s interpretation of results make sense? Are the conclusions convincing? Are the results/conclusions placed in a broader context? Does this manuscript advance readers’ understanding of a topic? Are limitations and future directions discussed?
  • Overall: Is the paper well-organized and/or well-written? 

Creative Works

Here are some key questions to consider when reviewing artist statements or statements of inspiration submitted alongside creative submissions including works like paintings, graphic design, songs, films, poetry, and short stories (not all questions may apply): 

  • Is the work, including any methods or mediums used in its creation, adequately explained?
  • Is the intent and purpose of the work clearly stated?
  • Has the creator described a meaningful creative or scholarly context to the work?

Additional Resources

Cambridge University Press. (n.d.). A guide to peer reviewing journal articles.

McPeek, M. A., DeAngelis, D. L., Shaw, R. G., Moore, A. J., Rausher, M. D., Strong, D. R., Ellison, A. M., Barrett, L., Rieseberg, L., Breed, M. D., Sullivan, J., Osenberg, C. W., Holyoak, M., & Elgar, M. A. (2009). The golden rule of reviewing. The American Naturalist, 173(5), E155–E158.

PLOS. (n.d.). For reviewers.

Publons. (2019). How to write a peer review: 12 things you need to know.