Reviewer ID#: ________________ Authors' ID#'s: ____________________________
This peer review is to be done anonymously. Your task is to help the author to write a better, more readable, paper. You don't need to be a great scientific writer yourself to do this. You just need to be a good, attentive, reader. Your "reader's ear" will help you more than any knowledge of scientific writing rules, and in fact we'll provide you with specific questions below when we want you to give the author feedback concerning particular rules and conventions of scientific writing.
As you read, you will find yourself responding at three levels: at the global level you are evaluating the big picture (main idea, overall structure, validity of argument.) At the paragraph level, you respond to the ways the author moves you through the argument (transitions between paragraphs and sections, cohesiveness of paragraphs, variety of sentence structure within paragraphs, etc.) Finally, at the sentence (line editing) level, you respond to issues of word choice, sentence structure, grammar and spelling.
Clearly the global level issues are most important: an incorrect interpretation of the whole experiment or an illogical organization will sink the paper no matter how much effort is put into sentence structure. One of your jobs as reviewer is to identify the level (global, paragraph, or sentence) at which the author needs to concentrate their revision work. Fine-tuning of sentences should take place only after any major structural changes have been made.
REVIEWERS: You will be evaluated on how well you identify the strengths/weaknesses in the paper and on the quality and accuracy of your suggestions for improving the paper. We assume that you have a working familiarity with the "How to Write " guide and that it is open on the desk beside you. The review counts 30 points.
AUTHORS: You will be evaluated on how well you respond to and incorporate the suggestions made by your reviewer(s). To facilitate your evaluation, we suggest that you check (") each change suggested below as you make it, and also check the changes made on the draft. If you opt not to make a suggested change, please provide a brief comment explaining why. Your use of the reviewers' suggestions counts 20 points on your paper score.
Although global issues should be the author's first priority, we know that sentence-level problems can distract you, the reviewer, from your focus on the ideas being discussed. Read the paper through once, making notes to yourself and the author as you work through any difficult sentences, grammatical errors, or structural problems (incomplete or wordy sentences, imprecise language, misspellings, use of jargon, etc.) You do NOT need to line-edit the whole paper - pick a few paragraphs to mark extensively, and after that, just make any marks you need to help you on your second reading.
The second time you read the paper, ignore any sentence-level
issues and pay close attention to what the author is trying to
say. We encourage you to write on the paper and note any questions
you may have along the way. Remember, your responses AS A READER
are what we're after here - if on both reads you had to flip
back to page 2 after reading the second paragraph on page 3,
there is definitely a problem there. You may not know exactly
what the problem is yet, but you need to make a note of it, continue
mulling it over, and tell the author about it. After this second
reading, begin working through the review form, re-reading sections
as needed to help you answer the questions.
A. At the end of the Introduction, leading into the Materials and Methods section, the author should 1) clearly state the purpose or goal of the study, and 2) briefly indicate the study's approach and how it addresses the questions or hypotheses posed. Indicate where the author does this, and whether it is done effectively.
B. What is the larger context the author has chosen for considering their specific question or problem? Does this context make sense? Is the big picture (context) linked explicitly and logically to the small picture (particular experiment being done here)?
C. What sort of related previous research is mentioned? If you feel unclear about the relevance of the research cited to the context the author has chosen, what other sorts of references would provide a better background for the study? Is there additional background information that should be provided here?
D. Consider the audience (a group of scientific peers at the author's own level). Is the level of background information appropriate for this audience? Does it assume we know more than we do? Does it explain more than it needs to? Does the level of the Introduction correspond to the title?
II. Materials and Methods: The Materials and Methods section should succinctly explain what was done, giving only information necessary to repeat the experiment.
A. This section must describe experimental subjects or preparations (their sources, rearing conditions, etc.) and study site for field studies., the experimental/sampling design (include numbers and grouping of subjects, treatments, controls, etc.), the experimental/sampling procedures (what was done to each subject or how each item was prepared or collected), and the methods of analysis. Mark on the draft where each of these pieces appears. Is the organization logical and helpful to the reader? Is the information complete? Is all the necessary quantitative information provided (e.g. concentrations, how long, how many, etc.)? Is there any information that belongs in another section? Are subheadings present if needed?
B. How does it read? Point out single-action sentences, excessive detail, or repetitive sentences or paragraphs that could be combined. Does the author strike an appropriate balance between use of "I/we" and excessive passive voice?
III. Results: This section reports the data/results using a combination of text, figures, and tables, without imposing any interpretation at this stage.
A. For each key result, has the author drawn attention in the text to the trends or comparisons most pertinent to answering the question posed in the Introduction? Does the author "set you up" well to move on to the interpretations given in the Discussion, without straying into interpretation here? Are results presented in a sequence that helps the reader to understand them, and does the structure of this section relate logically to that of the Methods section?
B. Data summary and statistics: Has the author chosen the best way to summarize the numerical results (means + error term, proportions, percent, ratios, etc.?) If statistical tests were employed, are they summarized appropriately in the figures/tables, or parenthetically in the text? Are text sentences focused on the biological result, with most information about statistical significance appearing in parentheses?
C. Figures/Tables: Has the author chosen the best format (table, figure, or numbers in text) for presenting each set of results? Are the types of figures chosen appropriate, and are there places where multiple or compound figures should be substituted for single, complex ones? Now open the "How to Write a Scientific Paper " guide (http://abacus.bates.edu/~ganderso/biology/resources/writing/HTWtoc.html) and check figure legends, table captions, axis or column labeling, and all other aspects of the figures/tables for consistency with ALL the instructions there. Note problems on the draft. Has the author clearly told you what data are plotted or tabulated? Could each figure or table be understood, without referring to the text, by another scientist familiar with the study topic?
IV. Discussion: The Discussion interprets the Results, relating them to the hypothesis and to the existing larger body of information about the topic. It answers the question "what do we know now about this problem that we didn't know before we did our study, and how have our explanations of these phenomena changed (or been affirmed) by this work?"
A. If the author restates results, indicate this and pose questions that would refocus them on interpretation. Indicate any information that belongs in a different section.
B. What are the author's conclusions and do they follow clearly from the study's results? Are there data that don't support the conclusions? Are there other possible interpretations of the data, and have the authors considered them in the text? Does the author's language clearly differentiate between conclusions, interpretations, and speculations? Does the author speculate too much or too broadly?
C. Are there sufficient references to relevant information from the primary literature? Do the authors use the literature to help justify their interpretation of the results? Could they make better use of their references? If you know of other papers the authors should look at, suggest them.
D. Does the Discussion answer the question posed in the Introduction, and does it use the context of background information and literature established there? Or do the authors need to update their Introduction, now that the results are in? Considering audience again, is the discussion written at an appropriate level that matches that of the Introduction?
V. Title and Abstract
A. TITLE: Having read the entire paper, check that the Title describes the study and its major finding. Suggest any necessary changes to the information content of the title here, as well as on the draft.
B. ABSTRACT: If the paper includes an Abstract, mark where the author has addressed (1) the purpose of the study, (2) the primary methods used including a brief description of the study design, (3) the key results that address the specific questions asked (including quantitative summaries or comparisons), and (4) the primary interpretations or conclusions drawn. Is anything missing? Anything included that should not be there? Mark on the draft any places where the language should be more concise.
VI. Final Analysis
A. Consider the major issues you've identified in the paper. At which level should the author focus their revision effort? Check one, or number in sequence of importance.
Global__________ Paragraph____________ Line-editing___________
B. List the three most important improvements that the PI needs to make. Make sure that you have suggested constructive solutions to these problems.
C. List the three most important strengths of this paper which the PI should not lose in the process of revision.
D. WRITING STYLE: Describe the writing style of the paper (stuffy, casual, professional, 'folksy', wordy, etc.) and suggest stylistic changes.
E. LINE-EDITING: Look back over the marks you made on your first read-through, making sure that you have indicated in at least a several-paragraph section all examples of wordy, colloquial, repetitive, or confusing sentence structure, and examples of imprecise language, grammar and spelling errors, misuse of terminology and excessive jargon. As you go through this section again, suggest alternative wordings or structures. Describe below which section you have chosen for this detailed line-editing (e.g. "all of page 3", "first 3 paragraphs of Introduction", "first paragraph of each main section", etc.).
_____ Clearly identified the major problems in the paper;
global and paragraph level
_____ The major global problems were not adequately identified
Revised 1-29-2004 SR/GA Copyright 2004 Bates College