PLOS Peer Review Toolkit
Welcome back to the Peer Review Toolbox! We’ve missed you during our short Spring sabbatical. This is the final issue of our regular Foundations of Peer Review series–but we have a couple of exciting Special Issues coming up in the next few weeks, including that big announcement we promised. We hope you’ll join us!
Giving feedback | How to write a constructive peer review
Giving feedback can be hard—especially when you have to give negative comments. How do you balance clear and actionable criticism with a constructive tone when writing a peer review? Here are some strategies that may help.
"Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy."
— Isaac Newton
Keep your underlying purpose in mind
As a reviewer, your role is to identify anything in the manuscript or study design that might make it unsuitable for publication and, if you can, suggest changes the authors might make to address your concerns.
Be straightforward
Don’t hold back your criticisms. If you spot something unclear or inaccurate let the authors know about it so that it can be fixed. Be as specific as you can.
Be respectful and professional
Use a collegial, collaborative tone. Focus your remarks on the manuscript--not the authors personally. Use phrases like “the authors’ discussion of X” rather than “your discussion of X.”
As you write, think about the kind of review you’d like to receive. Write comments that you would be comfortable signing your name to, even if you are participating in a blind review process.
In practice, here’s what it looks like when you apply these principles to your writing:
“The authors have no idea what they are talking about. I don’t think they have read any of the literature on this topic.”
“The study fails to address how the findings relate to previous research in this area. The authors should rewrite their Introduction and Discussion to reference the related literature, especially recently published work such as Darwin et al.”
Visit the Peer Review Center for more examples like this and to read our complete guide to Writing a Peer Review.
Congratulations to our t-shirt winners from issue #11:
Gautam Shenoy, Elisa Donnard, Dokun Oluwajana, Umar Ijaz Ahmed
and Syeda Novera Anwar.