Reviewing a Paper

My supervisor sent me an email asking if I’d like to review a paper with him (i.e., we’d both read it and share our comments). I’m excited about this because I get to learn about the process a bit more. Plus, the paper is right in my research field!

However, I really suck at reading and critiquing papers! I usually just read it, get out of it what I can, and then don’t bother with the rest.

So, does anyone have any advice for reviewing a paper? How do you do it – do you just read it front to back and make comments as you go? Or do you read certain sections first? Let me know your strategies!

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Comments on: "Reviewing a Paper" (4)

  1. I try to record any questions that pop into my head as I’m reading the paper, then, if those questions remain unanswered even after you’ve read the whole thing, then you’ve got a list of points to bring up with the authors! =D

    (not that I have ever actually formally reviewed a paper before, but this is what I think I WOULD do, teehee!)

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  2. I read the whoel thing and comment a bit, i.e. the first thoughts/questions in my mind, in the margin. Then I go through the figures, check the statistics and then go back and be more through about the refs/background/field impact etc.

    I usually miss out on “the bigger picture”. Mainly because I know my PI is very good at looking at “where in the field does this work out” and even though I medline search the field and get a smaller opinoin about the paper and field work I tend to focus on the things I know I can (i.e. statistics, experimental set up, methods and material….).

    good luck!!

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  3. I try to do my reviews in 3 parts but I’ll take notes and write the review as I go and then go back and tidy it up when I’ve gotten through all 3.

    I first read the abstract to get a general overview of the paper. Then go through the manuscript from beginning to end and make notes about things that strike me (things that don’t make sense, methods that are inappropriate, etc). After that, I should have a greater idea of what the overall aims and findings of the paper are and I try to look at it from a conceptual point of view (the bigger picture that Chall was referring to) – often have to re-read the intro and discussion again a couple of times, particularly if it isn’t clear. As a new reviewer, the last one is the most challenging as you’ll probably find you’ll get hung up on specifics.

    Don’t know if this makes sense but hope it helps.

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  4. Read abstract, and results, to get an overlook. Then check all the figures, and their captions. THEN you can go into the meat 🙂 If I don’t do this it takes me at least half the paper to realise what’s going on (and by then I’ll be asleep anyways)

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