Be careful while Reviewing a Manuscript
A manuscript (abbreviated MS or MSS for plural) is any document written by hand or typewritten, as opposed to being mechanically printed or reproduced in some automated way.More recently it is understood to be an author’s written, typed, or word-processed copy of a work, as distinguished from the print of the same. Before the arrival of printing, all documents and books were manuscripts.There are several broad groups of manuscripts. These include original scientific articles, invited reviews and editorials, and case reports. The final stage of a research project is the writing of a manuscript which ultimately allows your work to become part of the “body of knowledge.” Development of a manuscript involves the careful inclusion of all of the relevant information so that your research can be understood as well as replicated by others. It is important to be concise and clear. For publication, a manuscript needs to be reviewed by the reviewed. So, at the beginning, typically a reviewer does something like:
- Read abstract carefully
- Read introduction quickly
- Read the “Materials and Methods” and “Results” sections multiple times
- Read conclusions quickly
- Look at references
- Skim rest of paper
Before writing the review a reviewer ensures the followings:
- To which manuscript category does this manuscript best conform?
- Are there any potential biases in reviewing this manuscript?
- Does the manuscript address an important problem?
- Has the manuscript been previously published?
Before reviewing a manuscript’s criteria, there are some problems associated with a poor manuscript. Bartol (1983, cited in Eichorn & VandenBos, 1985) identified chief problems as the following:
- Inadequate review of the literature,
- Inappropriate citations,
- Unclear introduction,
- Ambiguous research questions,
- Inadequately described sample,
- Insufficient methodology,
- Incompletely described measures,
- Unclear statistical analysis,
- Inappropriate statistical techniques,
- Poor conceptualization of discussion,
- Discussion that goes beyond the data,
- Poor writing style, and
- Excessive length.
General checking criteria while reviewing different sections of a manuscript
- Does the Abstract appropriately summarize the manuscript?
- Are there discrepancies between the Abstract and the remainder of the manuscript?
- Can the Abstract be understood without reading the manuscript?
- Is the Introduction concise?
- Is the purpose of the study clearly defined?
- Do the authors provide a rationale for performing the study based on a review of the medical literature? If
so, is it of the appropriate length?
- Do the authors define terms used in the remainder of the manuscript?
- If this manuscript is Original Research, is there a well-defined hypothesis?
- Could another investigator reproduce the study using the methods as outlined or are the methods unclear?
- Do the authors justify any choices available to them in their study design (e.g., choices of imaging techniques, analytic tools, or statistical methods)?
- If the authors have stated a hypothesis, have they designed methods that could reasonably allow their hypothesis to be tested?
- Are the results clearly explained?
- Does the order of presentation of the results parallel the order of presentation of the methods?
- Are the results reasonable and expected, or are they unexpected?
- Are there results that are introduced that are not preceded by an appropriate discussion in the Methods section?
- Is the discussion concise? If not, how should it be shortened?
- If a hypothesis was proposed, do the authors state whether it was verified or falsified? Alternatively, if no hypothesis was proposed, do the authors state whether their research question was answered?
- Are the authors’ conclusions justified by the results found in the study?
- If there are unexpected results, do the authors adequately account for them?
- Do the authors note limitations of the study? Are there additional limitations that should be noted?
Figures and Graphs
- Are the figures and graphs appropriate and are they appropriately labeled? Would a different figure better illustrate the findings?
- Do the figures and graphs adequately show the important results?
- Do arrows need to be added to depict important or subtle findings?
- Do the figure legends provide a clear explanation that allows the figures and graphs to be understood without referring to the remainder of the manuscript?
- Does the reference list follow the format for the journal?
- Does the reference list contain errors?
- Have the authors appropriately represented the salient points in the articles in the reference list? Alternatively, have the authors misquoted the references?
- Are there important references that are not mentioned that should be noted?
- Are there more references than are necessary?
The reviewer should provide a short paragraph that summarizes the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript. The actual Recommendation (e.g., recommend to Accept, Accept Pending Revisions, Reconsider After Major Revisions, or Reject) should not be stated in this paragraph, which is sent to the authors, but should be indicated separately in the drop-down list. It may also be stated in the separate box called “Confidential Note to the Editor.” However, the overall tenor of this paragraph should support the reviewer’s recommendation.
A reviewer is expected to carefully read and analyze the paper, and to write his/her personal views. A review report should contain the following four paragraphs:
- Concise summary of the paper.
- Evaluation of the paper (assessment, positive and negative sides, unclear points etc. regarding contents, structure, language, figures etc.)
- Summary (accept/not accept, why)
- Further comments (typos, hints for improvements)
Remember that the purpose of the review is not to condemn papers or authors! The purpose of the review is to:
- Help the authors to make the paper better.
- Train to read papers, to try to understand them and to do a review.
- Train the authors to take advice from others.
- Learn how to write (and how not to write) from others.
- Spread the content of papers.
Keep to the point at issue, and have a respectful and constructive attitude! The review must be performed in a friendly atmosphere and with a humble mind.