Peer Review

How to make your article easy to review - Part 4

25 tips from experienced reviewers on what to look out for before submitting your article

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In part 4 of our series on making your article easy to review, we hear from many different reviewers from around the world…

Your top tip to (potential) authors: In March, we posed the question to reviewers via our Reviewers’ Update channel on what would be their top tip to (potential) authors. We received 58 suggestions in total. Below we highlight 25 of them, clustered in various categories.

Pick the right journal

AuthorI have suggested in a number of conference meet-the-editors sessions that people have a look at the journal before submitting to it! - Andrejs Skaburskis

Look at a few issues of the journal online first and make sure that your article fits the journal's mission and style. I edit a journal that mostly publishes theoretically-informed qualitative social science research and I desk reject a lot of papers that are reporting policy-oriented quantitative work. It wastes my time and the authors. - Robert Dingwall

Please strictly follow the journal specific 'author submission' guidelines. - Rajshekhar Bipeta

When selecting a journal for your paper, ask yourself why would someone in Melbourne Australia want to read it? (If you are in Melbourne ask about readers in Perth). If you can't think of a reason, you can either rewrite to allow for more generalization, or, send it to a national journal.  - Andrejs Skaburskis

Journal finder

One of the most popular tips was about choosing the right journal and how often an article is rejected simply because it’s not relevant to the journal in question. If you are ever in doubt, check our journal finder tool >>

Language / writing / flow

If English isn't your first language, have it proofread and edited by someone in the same field who speaks English as their first language, before initial submission. - Tammie

I think the most common problem I have, even with good research, is poor writing. Academic writing is often miserable to read. The point is to effectively communicate your ideas and clear writing often indicates clear thinking, which are both essential for the advancement of knowledge. - Chris Carleton

Authors should try to write simple, clear and concise sentences, as much as possible, and make the text of the manuscript coherent. - Marija Stanković

Always have someone unaware of your topic read the article before submitting it. If it flows and makes sense to them, it will make sense to a reader; if they have to stop and reread to "get it" you have some logic issues. - Cynthia Hollingsworth

Before submission: (i) discuss with your peers, discuss with your supervisor, get the devil’s advocate to dismantle your MS from every possible perspective. (ii) Try to get your ideas with a very few sentences to an interested person who does not work in the field. It will help you to build a logic sequence of arguments. I've seen too many MS that reported highly interesting content but clearly suffered from very superficial if any input from others than the first author. Supervisors, don't delegate your job to the referees! - Andreas Reinecke

Make sure that there are no internal inconsistencies in your paper. It is amazing how many times what is said in the abstract, the findings and the tables do not agree. It is perhaps easy to understand how this might happen if the paper is going through many iterations but it can have a really bad impact on the confidence the reviewer has in your paper. Sorry! - Jo

A keyword for all authors should be clarity. Authors know their area and the details of their own study and its analysis so thoroughly that it is easy to assume the reader knows more than is really the case. It is difficult but authors should imagine themselves reading the paper without that prior knowledge. - Robin Prescott

Clarify the research question, add something new

WhoWhatWhyOne common error is failing to provide a complete rationale for the research question. Authors sometimes mention existing research, but don't necessarily explain well exactly how the described research adds to the literature in the introduction. - Francis C. Dane

Read the existing literature- make sure you have something new and useful to say. - Golda

Check your manuscript carefully for innovative aspects, do not repeat known facts or try to re-publish data already commonly accepted by the scientific community. Remember that literature should be cited with respect to originality and first publication date even when pivotal data have been published long time ago. - Mathias

A research journal paper is not a term paper nor a project report. Clearfy the research purpose and main findings and weave your manuscript around them. Make sure that necessary details are included while keep the writing clear and concise. - Ryan Su

Always state early on (Abstract, Introduction) what this paper brings to the literature that is new. Make sure reviewers and readers know what you are adding to the body of research on the topic area. - Debra

Citations

Check and double-check your citations, and their relevance. Nothing says "I don't care" to me more than sloppy citation handling. If you are careless there, I will presume you have been careless everywhere. - Michael Pol

Don't make excessive self-citation, the idea is not new… - Ashraf Khalaf

Cite original sources where possible. Be careful in citations that the reference actually had work on what it is being cited for. I have seen several instances of people citing as a reference something that was just hypothesized or that was mentioned as a brief citation of some other researcher's work in the introduction.  - Linda

Tables or graphs / formatting

GraphWhen writing a legend for a table or graph, do not try to retell everything that can be seen. Tell the trend, the main similarities or differences. - Kamo “chili” Perec

Another problem I find when reviewing articles is putting Methods aspects in the Introduction and Results in the Discussion and so on. This is quite common, and I would advise to review carefully before submitting the article. - Airton Stein

Avoid submitting to many journals

Please avoid submitting the same manuscript (with very little addition) to too many journals at the same time. No doubt reviewers cannot catch all of them if they are under review, but it may become the target of retraction in the future. - Anurag Chaurasia

Spend time on the Introduction

As I often recommend rejection on the basis of the Introduction only, I would suggest that an author should try to make clear how s/he arrived at the research question on the basis of the Introduction. Follow the simple but useful format "What we know" -> "What we do not know" -> "What ideas we may have" -> "Research question" - Georgios Vleioras

Read your paper backwards!

Read your paper from Z to A. Yes, read it in reverse. When you read your paper from A to Z, you start reading with attention, but then you naturally accelerate (because you read your own text about your idea - you already know and understand both). From the middle of your paper you don't read - you glide through the text. When you read from Z to A, gliding is much harder. You have to focus on each sentence separately. Every time ask yourself if the sentence sounds good? - Sergey Korkin

Discussion

My main concern is on Discussion. Most authors don't present their most important results first. Sometimes they are hidden within the text when it should be the first thing to appear! - Kimirei


A big thank you to all the reviewers who took the time to share their knowledge and tips. For the original story and to read all the suggestions, click here >>

Are you a reviewer and have anything to add to these suggestions? Feel free to comment below.

To view part 1 of this series, (by Dr. Alexandru T. Balaban), click here >>
To view part 2 of this series, (by Dr. Maria A Auger), click here >>
To view part 3 of this series, (by Dr. Yan-Fu Li), click here >>

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