As editor of the Journal of Public Relations Research, I've made a concerted effort to include new reviewers, both international scholars and new scholars in the United States. Many times they have not done reviews before -- only received them -- and they sometimes ask for feedback on their reviews. This post will provide some general advice on how to write a good journal article review.
- Be sure you're familiar with the journal's expectations before you even starting reading the article. JPRR, for example, focuses on PR theory development, so the primary consideration of any review should be how well it contributes to that mission.
- Check to see if the journal provides reviewing tips or guidelines for reviewers. These are usually sent along with the manuscript (in our case, electronically). I also requested that JPRR's reviewing guidelines, developed by three members of the editorial board earlier this year, be included on the publisher's website, so that they are accessible to reviewers (and authors!).
- If there are no guidelines, you should at a minimum consider the following areas: theoretical foundation (literature review), method (appropriateness to the research questions as well as how well it's been applied), ethics, writing and organization, and contribution to the field.
- Ultimately, you should include a recommendation to the editor to reject, revise and resubmit, or accept the manuscript (some journals have several different categories for recommendations, often included in the editor's cover letter that accompanies the manuscript). Although this is a recommendation rather than a "vote" (the editor has the final say), it does influence the editor's thinking.
- In my experience it's better to be too critical than not critical enough. Note: critical does not mean "cruel" or "hateful." You've been invited to review because you appear to have expertise in some aspect (theory, method, subject matter) of the manuscript, and the editor expects you to deliver an honest assessment. Do not assume that other reviewers will catch mistakes or comment on any particular aspect of the manuscript; different reviewers may be knowledgeable about different areas.
- Write your review in paragraph form, always with an eye toward improving the manuscript. Even if you recommend rejection, the editor might decide to move ahead with it, and suggested revisions will be important. Even if it is rejected by the journal, the author will probably try to revise it for another journal, and your suggestions might help improve scholarship in general. Even if the author/s trash it and start a new project, you might help them improve their future research by considering reviewing as part of a continuing process of scholarship.
- Perhaps this should go without saying, but return your review on time and respond to any queries from the editor in a timely fashion.