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For every manuscript of my own that I submit to a journal, I review at least a few papers, so I give back to the system plenty.
Unless it’s for a journal I know well, the first thing I do is check what format the journal prefers the review to be in.
Some journals have structured review criteria; others just ask for general and specific comments. I almost never print out papers for review; I prefer to work with the electronic version.
I'm more prone to agree to do a review if it involves a system or method in which I have a particular expertise.
And I'm not going to take on a paper to review unless I have the time.
I usually consider first the relevance to my own expertise.
I will turn down requests if the paper is too far removed from my own research areas, since I may not be able to provide an informed review.If the answer to all four questions is yes, then I’ll usually agree to review.I am very open-minded when it comes to accepting invitations to review.Writing a good review requires expertise in the field, an intimate knowledge of research methods, a critical mind, the ability to give fair and constructive feedback, and sensitivity to the feelings of authors on the receiving end.As a range of institutions and organizations around the world celebrate the essential role of peer review in upholding the quality of published research this week, Careers shares collected insights and advice about how to review papers from researchers across the spectrum.I always read the paper sequentially, from start to finish, making comments on the PDF as I go along.I look for specific indicators of research quality, asking myself questions such as: Are the background literature and study rationale clearly articulated? (I usually pay close attention to the use—and misuse—of frequentist statistics.) Is the presentation of results clear and accessible? That usually becomes apparent by the Methods section.As junior scientists develop their expertise and make names for themselves, they are increasingly likely to receive invitations to review research manuscripts.It’s an important skill and service to the scientific community, but the learning curve can be particularly steep.I do this because editors might have a harder time landing reviewers for these papers too, and because people who aren't deeply connected into our research community also deserve quality feedback.Finally, I am more inclined to review for journals with double-blind reviewing practices and journals that are run by academic societies, because those are both things that I want to support and encourage.