Approaches to Peer Review

We asked our reviewers, "What approach do you take as you conduct a peer review?" Here's what they told us.

Sharing your writing is a deeply personal and vulnerable act. Though those in academia recognize the currency that publishing carries, that does not make this reality any less true. When scholars submit their work — whether it is a proposal or a full manuscript — I approach it with this vulnerability in mind. In selecting reviewers, I am also consciously thinking about who will approach the submission with respect and compassion.

At the end of the day, however, texts will circulate and function in the world absent of their authors. So, peer review needs to take this into consideration. No one ever submits a perfect text the first (or even second) time. So, a function of peer review is to identify what the author is trying to communicate, reflecting when they are (and are not) communicating those ideas effectively, and providing constructive suggestions for making the text the best that it can be.

– Heather M. Falconer, Curry College
Editor, Perspectives on Writing Book Series

As a reviewer, I try always to remember that my role is NOT to give a glib thumbs up/thumbs down "rotten tomatoes"-type judgment. I try to write the kind of detailed (but never picky) review that I find most helpful to receive. I keep reminding myself that our discipline and our publications thrive on new voices, approaches, and investigations that can help all of us keep growing. There are so many ways that our writing and research can be vibrant, even exciting, while also meeting ethical standards, so reviewers should encourage writers' experimentation and imagination.

– Chris Thaiss, University of California, Davis
Author and editor of several books, including Writing Programs Worldwide: Profiles of Academic Writing in Many Places