The Bulletin is a peer reviewed journal and is managed by Routledge Taylor & Francis Publishing. See what to expect during peer review.
The aim of peer review is to produce the best possible paper for publication. Many authors are wary of the peer review process, as some criticism is an inherent part of the process, but it is intended to enhance and develop professional skills.
When a paper is received it is sent to two external referees. AICCM uses a double-blind refereeing process – authors do not know the referees’ identity and external referees do not know the authors’ identity.
When referee reports are received, the editors make one of the following decisions: a) to accept the manuscript in the current version; b) minor mandatory revisions; c) return for major rewriting; or d) to reject the paper.
Anonymous reports from the external referees are sent to the author(s), with the editor’s decision re publication of the paper, and possibly some comments from the editor. Papers revised or resubmitted after peer review are sent back to referees only if the changes are substantial or the editor requires a further opinion. Papers accepted for publication are copy edited, proofed and subsequently published in the AICCM Bulletin.
These reports will be sent to the authors by the editor, together with the editor’s summary and final decision. The report includes a detailed analysis of the paper explaining the basis for the referee’s recommendation and provides suggestions to improve the paper.
Suggested structure and content
- Accept / Minor mandatory revisions / return for major rewriting / reject.
- Specify whether the paper is suitable as a general article or is better suited as a technical note.
- This part should include a good summary of the paper, in your own works – e.g. outline the question asked by the author, what data is used, how the hypothesis is formulate and tested, what results arise. This summarises the essence of the paper for the editor.
- This section should also briefly discuss overall aspects of the paper in order to explain the overall reason for the given recommendation. This paragraph could refer to the overall importance of the topic, quality of research, quality of scholarly writing and analysis, main strong and weak points, and overall potential contribution of the paper to current conceptual and theoretical knowledge and to educational practice.
- This part should address in detail key aspects of the paper, positive or negative, which were the main reasons for the overall evaluation (probably 4-5 main points in all).
- The section numbering system should be used to facilitate referencing.
- Positive points may include the significance or unusualness of the data, or a novel approach, new technique or innovative strategy.
- Negative points may include a lack of correspondence between the idea and the method, the empirical strategy and the conclusion, or perhaps it is not new in any way – in which case you need to refer to other works to show where and how this research has already been done.
- Smaller points that require clarification or addition may also be included.
Characteristics to consider
- The appropriateness and importance of the aim/ purpose/rationale of the paper, in light of the purposes of The Bulletin.
- The soundness of the theoretical framework or the scholarly rationale for the work, quality of review and critical synthesis of previous research or bibliography.
- The relevance and soundness of research design/approach/methods and data collection, given the research goals.
- The relevance and soundness of data analysis (including choice of analytic tools and procedures, and interpretation)
- Effectiveness of data presentation in tables/ graphical displays.
- The quality of discussion, including quality of analysis of the meaning and import of the key results, how the findings relate to or add to the existing literature or knowledge base, and evaluation of the limitations of the work.
- The report should close with a list (if needed) of finer issues, such as typographical errors, syntactical and formatting problems in specific paragraphs, confusing tables or graphical displays, inaccuracies in references, etc.
- Again, the section numbering system should be used to facilitate referencing. The referee may also provide here specific examples for how to facilitate improvements.
Formatting of referee’s report
- All comments should be numbered, to enable authors and the editor to clearly refer to each comment.
- It is suggested that referees use the same headers or subtitles used in the paper (e.g. ‘Introduction’, ‘Historical Background’, ‘Results’ etc) to help the author and the editor find their way in the report.
- All comments should be included in the report itself, with no annotations to be made on the electronic or hardcopy version of the paper.
At no point is the identity of the referees disclosed to the author(s). Each referee should take care not to make any comments in the report that would reveal his/her identity.
Comments for the Editor only
The referee may also wish to submit comments to the editors that are NOT meant for the author(s) – e.g. concerns regarding potential conflict of interest, plagiarism etc. Such comments should be clearly marked, and should be submitted separately to the editor as part of the letter that accompanies the report.
Confidentiality and copyright
- New papers are sent to referees in a full electronic copy, so AICCM requires all those involved in the publication of new papers to follow strict guidelines regarding confidentiality and copyright issues.
- The AICCM policy is that NO copies of papers released for refereeing should be shared or circulated (via printed or electronic means) to others.
- Immediately following forwarding of the report to the editors, the electronic and any hard copies of the paper should be deleted/destroyed.
- At all times the paper and the report should be kept confidential and the paper should not be cited, before it is published, without written permission from the author(s) and the editor.
Your main responsibility is to help the editor decide whether to publish, but you should also consider helping the author produce a better paper. Be generous with your advice. Even if you recommend rejection, your comments will be useful to the author in revising his paper for a different journal – almost every paper has something that is useful and publishable if properly reformulated and targeted at the right audience. When a paper is turned down, the author is entitled to know on what advice the decision was based.
Being generous with your advice does not mean that you have to correct major flaws in logic – you are not a co-author. However, it is difficult to strike a balance between being too lenient and too tough. By being too lenient, you may be doing a disservice to your profession; by being too tough, you may be doing a disservice to the author. You can recommend that the paper be re-written for many different reasons, but faults in logic and reasoning do not necessarily make a paper unpublishable – these can be corrected.
It is better to err on the tougher side, but bear in mind that being tough is not the same as being mean – do not make insulting remarks; remember that this report is to be read by the author.
Take your job seriously – refereeing may appear to be a very unrewarding activity, but it does have many benefits. As well as helping the profession, you are helping your reputation by doing a good job, and keeping up with current literature at the same time.
It is hard to avoid subjectivity completely, but try to remain as objective as possible.
Avoid projecting your own style of writing onto the author – though grammar, structure etc should be of a certain standard, each author will have their own distinctive way of writing. Only propose alternative words etc to those written when you think it avoids confusion or ambiguity.
If you recommend that the paper be shortened, be very specific – authors are always reluctant to eliminate. For example, a request that the paper be cut down by half is not precise enough – give a specific list of the cuts that should be made.
You may want to divide your requests for revisions into two parts: some requests are non-negotiable (e.g. clear structure, language free of unnecessary technical jargon); other aspects of the paper you may dislike but are quite legitimate. Here you can only suggest changes and try to convince the author of your reasons for wanting them; you cannot insist on them. For instance, the writing style may not be what you prefer; however, you cannot force your own style on the author.
Think about papers you have found particularly clear or enjoyable in the past, and try to identify the reasons why you felt that way about them.
Read the paper carefully, checking all the arguments for correctness.