Journal Review: learning how to write by learning how to critique

As part of the EMERGE Lab, you'll occasionally be called upon to review manuscripts that have been submitted to various journals for publication. Your timely provision of a high-quality critique of these manuscripts will help the journal editor decide whether or not to publish the article, which therefore ensures that other researchers do good work and that the public receives information that they can comprehend, internalize, and possibly even implement. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Comments should be courteous and constructive, and should not include any personal remarks or personal details including your name. Don't forget to also provide explanations for your assessments.

Checklist

  • Summarize the article in a short paragraph. This shows the editor you have read and understood the research.

  • Give your main impressions of the article, including the abstract.

  • Provide examples with specific locations within the documents (line/paragraph/page numbers) to help justify your critique if needed.

  • Address these specific points, which should support your impression:

    • Originality: Totally new information or new concepts introduced? Is this a modification/extension of previously reported data? Or just a redundant study that doesn't add to the literature?

    • Methodology: Are the methods written in a way that the study could be repeated? Are the methods appropriate for answering the study question?

    • Experimental procedures: Were ethical requirements fulfilled? Were experimental groups assigned/randomized appropriately? Any concerns about the intervention?

    • Statistical analysis: Were the appropriate analyses used? Any statistical errors? Any need for additional statistical consultation?

    • Writing: Is the article well-written? Easy to understand? Devoid of grammatical errors? Is rewriting requited?

      • Abstract: Concise and relevant?

      • Introduction:  Outlines concisely and appropriately the problem investigated?

      • Results: Clear and complete? Objectivity?

      • Discussion and conclusions: Backed up by the data versus speculative or irrelevant?

      • Figures/Tables:  Necessary? Clear? Adequate in quality and number? Redundant? Poor quality?

  • For experimental or clinical trials, evaluate the manuscript's compliance with CONSORT guidelines to ensure the study's rigor and reproducibility. 

  • For observational studies, evaluate the manuscript's compliance with STROBE guidelines.

Now that you've learned how to review articles, get credit by registering your reviews with Publons:

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Brian T. Nguyen, MD MSc

Assistant Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology

Assistant Program Director for Family Planning

Keck School of Medicine of USC

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