The content of the paper needs to be academically inquisitive, make a critical analysis of the research. The paper should end with a section in which the state-of-the art is summarized and future trends in research highlighted. At this first stage, I try to be as open-minded as I can. Does the theoretical argument make sense? Does it contribute to our knowledge, or is it old wine in new bottles?
Is there an angle the authors have overlooked? This often requires doing some background reading, sometimes including some of the cited literature, about the theory presented in the manuscript. I then delve into the Methods and Results sections. Are the methods suitable to investigate the research question and test the hypotheses? Would there have been a better way to test these hypotheses or to analyze these results?
Is the statistical analysis sound and justified? Could I replicate the results using the information in the Methods and the description of the analysis? I even selectively check individual numbers to see whether they are statistically plausible. I also carefully look at the explanation of the results and whether the conclusions the authors draw are justified and connected with the broader argument made in the paper. If there are any aspects of the manuscript that I am not familiar with, I try to read up on those topics or consult other colleagues.
In addition to considering their overall quality, sometimes figures raise questions about the methods used to collect or analyze the data, or they fail to support a finding reported in the paper and warrant further clarification.
Conclusions that are overstated or out of sync with the findings will adversely impact my review and recommendations. Then I read the paper as a whole, thoroughly and from beginning to end, taking notes as I read. For me, the first question is this: Is the research sound? And secondly, how can it be improved? Basically, I am looking to see if the research question is well motivated; if the data are sound; if the analyses are technically correct; and, most importantly, if the findings support the claims made in the paper.
I always ask myself what makes this paper relevant and what new advance or contribution the paper represents. Then I follow a routine that will help me evaluate this. I also consider whether the article contains a good Introduction and description of the state of the art, as that indirectly shows whether the authors have a good knowledge of the field.
Second, I pay attention to the results and whether they have been compared with other similar published studies. Third, I consider whether the results or the proposed methodology have some potential broader applicability or relevance, because in my opinion this is important. Finally, I evaluate whether the methodology used is appropriate.
If the authors have presented a new tool or software, I will test it in detail. Do you sign it? Using a copy of the manuscript that I first marked up with any questions that I had, I write a brief summary of what the paper is about and what I feel about its solidity.
Then I run through the specific points I raised in my summary in more detail, in the order they appeared in the paper, providing page and paragraph numbers for most. Finally comes a list of really minor stuff, which I try to keep to a minimum. If I feel there is some good material in the paper but it needs a lot of work, I will write a pretty long and specific review pointing out what the authors need to do. If the paper has horrendous difficulties or a confused concept, I will specify that but will not do a lot of work to try to suggest fixes for every flaw.
I never use value judgments or value-laden adjectives. Hopefully, this will be used to make the manuscript better rather than to shame anyone. I also try to cite a specific factual reason or some evidence for any major criticisms or suggestions that I make. After all, even though you were selected as an expert, for each review the editor has to decide how much they believe in your assessment.
Certain patterns of good reporting need to be followed by the author: They should start by describing in simple terms what the data show They should make reference to statistical analyses, such as significance or goodness of fit Once described, they should evaluate the trends observed and explain the significance of the results to wider understanding.
This can only be done by referencing published research The outcome should be a critical analysis of the data collected Discussion should always, at some point, gather all the information together into a single whole. Authors should describe and discuss the overall story formed. If there are gaps or inconsistencies in the story, they should address these and suggest ways future research might confirm the findings or take the research forward.
Conclusions This section is usually no more than a few paragraphs and may be presented as part of the results and discussion, or in a separate section. The conclusions should reflect upon the aims - whether they were achieved or not - and, just like the aims, should not be surprising.
If the conclusions are not evidence-based, it's appropriate to ask for them to be re-written. Information Gathered: Images, Graphs and Data Tables If you find yourself looking at a piece of information from which you cannot discern a story, then you should ask for improvements in presentation.
This could be an issue with titles, labels, statistical notation or image quality. Where information is clear, you should check that: The results seem plausible, in case there is an error in data gathering The trends you can see support the paper's discussion and conclusions There are sufficient data.
For example, in studies carried out over time are there sufficient data points to support the trends described by the author? You should also check whether images have been edited or manipulated to emphasize the story they tell.
This may be appropriate but only if authors report on how the image has been edited e. Where you feel that an image has been edited or manipulated without explanation, you should highlight this in a confidential comment to the editor in your report. List of References You will need to check referencing for accuracy, adequacy and balance.
Accuracy Where a cited article is central to the author's argument, you should check the accuracy and format of the reference - and bear in mind different subject areas may use citations differently. Adequacy You should consider if the referencing is adequate: Are important parts of the argument poorly supported?
Are there published studies that show similar or dissimilar trends that should be discussed? If a manuscript only uses half the citations typical in its field, this may be an indicator that referencing should be improved - but don't be guided solely by quantity References should be relevant, recent and readily retrievable Balance Check for a well-balanced list of references that is: Helpful to the reader Fair to competing authors Not over-reliant on self-citation Gives due recognition to the initial discoveries and related work that led to the work under assessment You should be able to evaluate whether the article meets the criteria for balanced referencing without looking up every reference.
Plagiarism By now you will have a deep understanding of the paper's content - and you may have some concerns about plagiarism. Identified Concern If you find - or already knew of - a very similar paper, this may be because the author overlooked it in their own literature search.
In addition, you should inform the reader of the experimental techniques that were used to generate the data. The emphasis of a review paper is interpreting the primary literature on the subject. You need to read several original research articles on the same topic and make your own conclusions about the meanings of those papers. In this contribution, I share ten simple rules I learned working on about 25 literature reviews as a PhD and postdoctoral student.
Ideas and insights also come from discussions with coauthors and colleagues, as well as feedback from reviewers and editors. Rule 1: Define a Topic and Audience How to choose which topic to review? There are so many issues in contemporary science that you could spend a lifetime of attending conferences and reading the literature just pondering what to review. On the one hand, if you take several years to choose, several other people may have had the same idea in the meantime.This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Literature reviews are in great demand step up to writing essay format most for fields. Their need stems from the ever-increasing output of scientific publications essay. For example, compared toin three, eight, and forty times more argument were leads in Writing of Science on malaria, obesity, and biodiversity, respectively .
Statistical analyses will not be sound if methods are not replicable. It creates an understanding of the topic for the reader by discussing the findings presented in recent research papers.
Although recognition for scientists mainly comes from primary research, timely literature reviews can lead to new synthetic insights and are often widely read . If I feel there is some good material in the paper but it needs a lot of work, I will write a pretty long and specific review pointing out what the authors need to do. Some graduate schools are now offering courses in reviewing the literature, given that most research students start their project by producing an overview of what has already been done on their research issue . I should also have a good idea of the hypothesis and context within the first few pages, and it matters whether the hypothesis makes sense or is interesting.
The Editor-in-Chief will evaluate the proposal and contact the authors with a decision on the matter. I've heard from some reviewers that they're more likely to accept an invitation to review from a more prestigious journal and don't feel as bad about rejecting invitations from more specialized journals. 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. If I've never heard of the authors, and particularly if they're from a less developed nation, then I'm also more likely to accept the invitation. On the other hand, only a well-considered topic is likely to lead to a brilliant literature review . It is also very important that the authors guide you through the whole article and explain every table, every figure, and every scheme.
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. A clear title and abstract will improve the paper's search engine rankings and will influence whether the user finds and then decides to navigate to the main article. By this point you should already have a good impression of them - if the explicit aims come as a surprise, then the introduction needs improvement. This is not always easy, especially if I discover what I think is a serious flaw in the manuscript. I almost never print out papers for review; I prefer to work with the electronic version.
The only other factor I pay attention to is the scientific integrity of the journal. 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. This helps me to distinguish between major and minor issues and also to group them thematically as I draft my review.
This varies widely, from a few minutes if there is clearly a major problem with the paper to half a day if the paper is really interesting but there are aspects that I don't understand. You can better highlight the major issues that need to be dealt with by restructuring the review, summarizing the important issues upfront, or adding asterisks. Editors are not out to police every paper, but when plagiarism is discovered during peer review it can be properly addressed ahead of publication. 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. I always ask myself what makes this paper relevant and what new advance or contribution the paper represents. The parts of the Discussion I focus on most are context and whether the authors make claims that overreach the data.