Conducting a Peer Review: Basic Information for AJOT Reviewers
Peer reviewers are essential to AJOT. As a peer reviewer, you are a gatekeeper who ensures that the research published in AJOT is of the highest quality.
The Associate Editors on AJOT’s Editorial Board serve as the handling editors for submitted manuscripts. When a handling editor invites you to submit a peer review, you must first decide whether you have the appropriate content or methodological expertise to accept the invitation. You will be sent the title and abstract of the article so that you can make this decision.
Say Yes if . . .
- You have relevant expertise in the research area.
- You have expertise with the methodology.
- You can return your review within the time frame requested.
Say Maybe If . . .
- You have something to give to the review (e.g., understanding of the research method), but lack in another area (e.g., not enough expertise with the population). Please reach out to the handing editor before saying no—you may be able to contribute your expertise in a very specific area.
Say No If . . .
- The paper is outside your area of expertise.
- You won’t be able to return your review within the time frame requested.
- You feel there is a conflict of interest (COI). COIs occur when you, as the reviewer, would not be able to provide an unbiased review, as in the following circumstances:
- You know the research team (even though reviews are blind, you can sometimes tell what group a paper is coming from).
- You have strong thoughts or beliefs on the topic that might influence your ability to provide an objective review.
If you are unsure whether a COI exists, please reach out to the handling editor or the AJOT editor-in-chief to discuss.
When You Say Yes
When you accept an invitation to provide a peer review, you will receive access to the full text of the manuscript. The article will have been screened for formatting requirements and (general) appropriateness for the journal.
During the peer review process, you should focus on two primary elements:
- The technical quality of the research
- The potential impact (or contribution) of the research.
Specific questions you should try to answer in your peer review include the following:
- Does this paper provide new knowledge or understanding in the field of occupational therapy?
- Have the authors organized the content, and their scientific argument, in a way that makes sense?
- Is the language used in the article appropriate for the field of occupational therapy and for publication in an English-language journal?
- Are the research and statistical methods chosen appropriate for the research questions asked and the hypotheses formed?
- Do the data provided support the conclusions drawn and the author’s stated implications for occupational therapy practice?
- Are there any major “red flags” or methodological errors that detract from the validity or generalizability of the results?
- Do the authors provide sufficient details in the article that the study can be reproduced? If not, do the authors include supplemental files or appendices (e.g., research protocol documents or clinical trials registry) to fill the gaps.
- Are the graphs and tables easy to understand and useful?
- Are references current and appropriately cited?
Articles that are accepted for publication will be screened for plagiarism and edited for grammar, punctuation, and APA editorial style. Although these issues are not the primary focus of the peer review, if the article you are reviewing is poorly written or suffers from problems with translation from another language, note in your report that it should be returned to the author for revision, even it otherwise merits publication. AJOT has a small editorial team, and it’s important for articles to be in good shape when they come to us for production. Likewise, if you suspect plagiarism, it is appropriate to note that in your report.
Your Peer Review Report
You will submit your peer review online within the AJOT submission system. You can type your comments directly into the online system or upload a document with your comments and recommendations. Your report should include the following elements, using line numbers to identify areas where changes need to be made:
- Summary of major strengths, or potential significance, of the work
- Major flaws or areas for improvement
- Minor problems or errors that should be corrected or clarified
- Recommendations for any significant editorial or language-related changes.
Your report will be shared directly with the authors; therefore, your tone should be generally positive and constructive. Even in the case of rejection, authors appreciate suggestions for how their paper can be improved for submission to another journal.
Reviewers can also provide confidential comments to the handling editor after uploading their report. In this section, you can more candidly state your recommendation and provide any other context influencing your critique.
Finally, you will need to provide one of the following recommendations to the handling editor:
- Accept: The paper is clearly written with strong, reproducible methods and has the potential to have a moderate to high impact on the field. Minor editorial changes may still be needed, but the paper is ready to move into the production phase.
- Reject: The paper has major methodological flaws that detract from the reliability, validity, or generalizability of the findings, OR the paper lacks importance to the field. Either way, the paper should no longer be considered for publication in AJOT.
- Resubmit With Major Revisions: Significant problems in content, methods, or writing must be addressed before resubmission.
- Resubmit With Minor Revisions: Areas within the paper need clarification or elaboration, but the overall structure and content of the paper is in decent shape and the topic appears important to the field.
What Happens Next?
After both peer reviews are completed, the handling editor makes a recommendation on the paper based on the critiques provided. You will receive a notice when a decision has been made on the paper, and you will be able to log into the system to see what the final decision was.
If the recommendation is for major or minor revision, the handling editor may ask you to review the revised version of the paper in approximately 4 to 6 weeks. The revised manuscript will have tracked changes to help reviewers identify where changes have been made. In addition, authors will provide a “Response to Reviewer” document, highlighting how they have addressed the reviewers’ areas of concern.
Your report on the revised document will often be shorter and less detailed than the original review, focused primarily on whether the authors have sufficiently addressed the concerns raised and whether any new issues have arisen. Reviewers are strongly encouraged to see a manuscript through to its final decision (reject or accept).
Many resources to assist you in peer review are available online:
- AJOT Author Guidelines: Please review AJOT’s author guidelines before beginning a review, particularly if it has been some time since your last review. It’s important to understand AJOT’s mission and requirements.
- Wiley offers a free, online short course focused on the basics of the peer review process at the Wiley Online Academy. See also Wiley’s step-by-step guide for how to review a manuscript.
- Equator Network: The Equator Network provides a library of research reporting databases and links to data reporting forms, such as the PRISMA and CONSORT checklists required by AJOT.
- PLoS.org The PLoS site provides great examples of do’s and don’ts for writing a constructive peer review critique.