Specialising in Peer-Review and Ethics

The editorial office hopes that this information will be useful to all who are reviewing papers for the 5 journals managed by the editorial office and any other journals for which the reviewers may be reviewing.


Please do not write "unoriginal work" cite the references to previous work.

If the author does not reference other studies please provide references.

Is the design method correct? Data collection sampling right?

Are the methods described adequately?

If the paper should be seen by a statiscian please note this in the comments to the editor.

Are the conclusion supported by the data?

Are there any ethical concerns?


The below checklist is published with kind permission from Will Hughes. The full text can be seen from this blog.



Checklist of questions to keep in mind while reviewing a research paper:


1. Conceptualization and Theoretical Basis of the Work.

(a) What is the problem or issue being investigated?

(b) What are the major concepts and how clearly ar the defined/explained?

(c) Is the connection to an existing body of knowledge or theory clear?

(d) Is there some practical relevance in this work (research practice or industrial practice)?

(e) What is the theoretical basis of this work for example knowledge domain, where would you expect to find this work in the library (classification number)?


2. Analytical Framework and Hypotheses

(a) Is there a clearly stated reseach question? (It might not be a research paper, as such).

(b) Are there hypotheses? Are they clearly stated? If they are not hypotheses, is the paper a review, case study, contribution to theory development or some other type of study?

(c) If they are hypotheses are the relationships between the main variables explicits and resonable? If they are not hypotheses, is there adequate development of theory?

(d) If there are hypotheses, are they stated in a way that makes them testable and the results, no matter what they are, interpretable? If they are not hypotheses, are there clear indicatons as to the significance to theoretical  development?


3. Research Design

(a) Are the methods of research appropiate to the nature of the question being asked?

(b) What is the type of research design?

(c) Could the design be improved? How?

(d) Is there a clear account of the critical used for selection the focus (unit) analysis and the cases chosen?

(e) Does the research design isolate what is being measured from other effects? Are the variables clearly and resonably operationlized (what is measured and how)? Are the reliabilty and validity of the measured  discussed?

(f) Is the population appropriate for the research question being studied? Is the sample specified and apporpriate? Can the results be reasonably generalized on the basis of this sample?


4. Results and Discussion

(a) Are the data appropriate for the study? Was the data collection and record keeping systematic?

(b) Are the statistical techniques appropriate and adequately described? Is reference made to accepted procedures for analysis?

(c) Are the control variables adequately handled in the data analysis? Are there other control variables that were not considered but should have been?

(d) How systematic is the analysis?

(e) Is there adequate discussion of how themes, concepts and categories were derived from the data?


5. Conclusion

(a) Do the conclusions flow from the work that has been reported?

(b) Are the conclusions of the study consistent with the results of the analysis? (If there is no numercial analysis, are the conclusions consistent with the development of the argument in the paper)

(c) Are the alternative conclusions that are consistent with the data discussed and accounted for?

(d) Are the theoretical and practical implications of the results adequately discussed? Are the theoretical implications adequately connected to the literature discussed at the beginning of the paper?

(e) Are the limitations of the study noted (in terms of parameters of the research and applicability of the findings)?

(f) Is there adequate discussion of the evidence for and against the researcher's arguments?

(g) Is a clear distinction made between the data and their interpretation?


6. Summary

(a) What is your overall assessment of the adequacy of the study for exploring the research problem?

(b) What is your overall assessment of the contribution of the study to this area of research?


Additional Reading

Moher D, Jadad AR. How to peer review a manuscript  (PDF-51KB). In Godlee F, Jefferson T, editors. Peer review in health sciences. Second edition. London: BMJ books, 2003:183-90.