Peer Review Explained

A question we are often asked here at the University Press is “What is this peer review thing and why is it so important?” The Oxford English Dictionary defines peer review as “The review of commercial, professional, or academic efficiency, competence, etc., by others in the same occupation” In publishing, it is the resulting professional or academic article or manuscript that is reviewed or “refereed,” a term associated with Peer Review. And in doing so, the writer(s)’ competency in the subject is reviewed.

Peer review is a method of evaluating submitted, academic works where qualified individuals within the relevant field examine the work for factual authenticity and reliable research methods. Typically, submitted works are distributed amongst one or more reviewer who will thoroughly examine it. In many cases, the writer will not know who the reviewers were and the reviewers will not know the author(s) of the work. This type of peer review is known as double-blind peer review, and will be discussed more thoroughly in a later post.

The purpose of peer review is to ensure that only high quality work is published. Having each possible work vetted by a team of experts within the respective field helps to ensure that only papers that meet rigorous standards will be published. Requiring the peer review process to be anonymous ensures that no reviewer will give a poor review for nonacademic reasons. Because of these two fundamental concepts, peer review has become an important process for filtering out prospective articles, books, and more. Without a system like peer review in place, any work could conceivably be published in any field, limiting the quality of publishers and academic journals alike.

 How does peer review work here at UPNG?

  •  A work is submitted to an editor for peer review.
  • The editor forwards it to two reviewers.
  • Each reviewer evaluates the work independently.
  • The reviewers submit their evaluations to the editor.

 At this point, one of three things can happen:

  • A work is given full endorsement by both reviewers.
  • A work is given no endorsement by either reviewer.
  • A work is reviewed positively by one reviewer and negatively by the other.

 If the work receives no endorsements, it is turned down. If it receives full endorsement, it is either published, or, in many cases, minor edits are requested. If a work receives mixed reviews, it is then sent to a third reviewer who acts as a tie-breaker in the reviewing process.

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Article written by Christopher Shull