Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Reviewing articles

An interesting article on reviewing academic papers can be found here (Hat tip to Academic Productivity)

While it is an article about reviewing psychology papers the general points seem sound and generalizable across to philosophy. I particularly liked the first piece of advice:

1. Know your mission. A reviewer’s job is to evaluate a submitted article, not (necessarily) to criticize it and certainly not to trash it. The editor is seeking your advice on whether or not to publish the paper, so you should point out both strengths and weaknesses of the paper and come to some balanced conclusion. Keep the big picture in mind: Is the problem addressed an important one in the context of the field? Does the current paper push knowledge forward in a substantive way? The question at issue is not “does this paper answer all the questions about this particular problem?” because the answer to that question is always “no.” The critical issue is whether the paper under review advances knowledge on the issue under consideration enough to be published. Yes, this requires human judgment, a notoriously fallible quality, but that is why there are two or three reviewers plus an editor. (Sometimes there are even more reviewers — too many, in fact — but I’ll save that problem for another column.) Always keep in mind that, as a reviewer, you are just one piece in the puzzle. You offer advice to the editor, and the editor decides on the publishability of the paper.

This is particularly useful advice since it can be hard as a new reviewer to figure out what your role is, its not something that gets covered in most postgraduate courses.

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