Any reputable scientific journal utilizes a peer-review process, in which each manuscript received is sent to a small group of experts to evaluate the work and determine whether it merits publication. This process is vital to maintaining the highest possible scientific standards, because (ideally) it serves to identify and weed out flawed research, correct errors and inaccuracies, and ensure clarity. Although this process is certainly far from perfect and every scientist who has gone through it has their gripes, it’s the best system we have for ensuring that only good quality research makes it into our journals.
Unfortunately, very few scientists receive formal training in how to conduct a proper article review. As a result, many reviewers end up focusing on the wrong things, which yields comments that are unhelpful and not constructive in the eyes of editors and authors. Moreover, it is common for reviewers to write much more than is necessary, which wastes time for everyone involved in the process. Because I have seen these and other problems arise again and again in my publishing experience, I have decided to share my philosophy on how to write a helpful and constructive article review with the hope that others will find it useful as a teaching and learning tool. While the steps below apply primarily to reviews of journal articles in the field of psychology, many of these points would likely be applicable in other disciplines.