Peer review is a process by which journals assess the quality of the study by inviting experts in the field to review the manuscript and help determine whether it is suitable for publication.
The process usually involves the following steps:
Step 1.Editor screening
The manuscript will first go through an initial screening by an editor. At this first stage, the journal editor will decide if it’s suitable for the journal and whether there are any fundamental flaws.
If the editor thinks there are serious problems in the manuscript or it is irrelevant to the scope and the goal of the journal, the manuscript will be rejected without external review and the authors will be notified.
If the manuscript passes the editor’s initial screening, it is sent out for review to external reviewers.
Step 2. Peer review
Now the paper has passed the editor’s screening, it will be forwarded to reviewers. Usually 2-4 reviewers are invited to evaluate the work, but the number of reviewers may vary depending on the field of study. The reviewers should be experts in the relevant field. Each reviewer will review and comment on the manuscript. The journal may have their specific review guideline, but the reviewers will look at significance of the study, the study design, results presentation, clarity of language, etc. The reviewers will also make a recommendation to the journal editor concerning publication.
Based on the reviewers’ feedback and recommendations, the editor will make informed decision on whether the paper will be accepted, rejected or invited to revise and resubmit. The editor will send out the decision letter to the authors. It is extremely rare for a paper to be accepted as it is. If the authors are asked to revise and resubmit the paper, they move on to the third step of the process.
Step 3. Revising and resubmitting
The editors believe that the article contains important information but some issues or concerns need to be addressed. The authors need to carefully read and consider reviewers’ comments. The revision should be based on those comments.
The authors also need to make a point-by-point response to each comment indicating how the change has been made, or if certain revision cannot be made, they provide sufficient explanations politely. The authors need to follow the editor’s instruction on how to show revision (e.g., highlighting the changes, use of Microsoft Word Track Change).
After the revision is done, the authors resubmit the revised paper to the journal. The revision will go through review by the editor only, or by both the editor and reviewers for the second round.
Then the authors usually can get a final decision. Normally, if the editor and reviewers believe the revision has adequately addressed their previous concerns and the paper has improved after the revision, the paper will move on the last step.
Step 4. Acceptance
When the paper is accepted, the authors get an acceptance letter. The authors may be requested to complete certain documents as a requirement for publication. The manuscript will be copy-edited and then put into production.
Authors can check the status of a manuscript in the submission system during the peer-review process.
Peer review works as quality control for scholarly journals to ensure that the published study is rigorous and adding value to the existing knowledge.
Watch my YouTube video “Peer-Review Process in Scholarly Journals”.