When you receive an invitation to peer review, you will receive a copy of the paper's abstract to help you decide whether you wish to do the review. Please respond to the invitation promptly to prevent delays in the reviewing process. It is also important at this stage to declare any potential Conflict of Interest. The referees shall have 45 days to evaluate the manuscript and they will receive a deadline for review and notification reminders on D-10 / D-3 to complete the review process.
Here are some guidelines and a step by step guide to help you conduct your peer review once you've accepted an invitation to review a manuscript.
Following the invitation to review, when you will have received the article abstract, you should already understand the aims, key data and conclusions of the manuscript. If you don't, make a note now that you need to feedback on how to improve those sections. The first read-through is a skim-read. It will help you form an initial impression of the paper and get a sense of whether your eventual recommendation will be to accept or reject the paper.
Try to bear in mind the following questions - they'll help you form your overall impression:
Once the paper has passed your first read and you've decided the manuscript is publishable in principle, one purpose of the second, detailed read-through is to help prepare the manuscript for publication. Of course, you may still decide to reject it following a second reading. As you're reading through the manuscript for the second time, you'll need to keep in mind the argument's construction, the clarity of the language and content.The benchmark for acceptance is whether the manuscript makes a useful contribution to the knowledge base or understanding of the subject matter. It need not be fully complete research - it may be an interim paper. After all, research is an incomplete, on-going project by its nature.
Referees should compile comments to authors and possibly confidential ones to editors only. We recommend structuring the review into three sections: summary, major issues, minor issues. Briefly summarise what the paper is about and what the findings are (context, significance and overall quality of the paper). State if there are major issues and what the severity of their impact is on the paper; if major revisions are required, try to indicate clearly what they are. Provide a list of minor issues regarding the ambiguity of meaning, citations, factual errors, labels etc. If relevant, suggest how can these be corrected.
Your review should ultimately help the author improve their article. So be polite, honest, and clear. You should also try to be objective and constructive, not subjective and destructive. If you're recommending acceptance, give details outlining why, and if there are any areas that could be improved. Don't just give a short, cursory remark such as 'great, accept'. Where improvements are needed, a recommendation to revise and resubmit or conditional acceptance is typical. If recommending revision, state specific changes you feel need to be made. The author can then reply to each point in turn. If recommending rejection or major revision, state this clearly in your review. Remember to give constructive criticism even if recommending rejection. This helps developing researchers improve their work and explains to the editor why you felt the manuscript should not be published.