Monday, July 17, 2006

Thoughts on academic journal reviews

I got a letter (amazing how many journals still use snail mail) informing me that one of my article manuscripts was rejected. I got two reviews, one of which was useful, and one of which was much less useful. I like this paper, but there are a number of things I need to work on.

That alone isn’t very interesting--it happens to all of us. In my eyes, more important is something I think is too common, namely sloppy reviews. Now, we’re talking about a very good journal, so one would expect good reviewers. But one of the reviews was literally riddled with typos, suggesting it had been hammered out quickly. Also, it committed what I think is a reviewing sin, which is not to back up claims. In my paper, I wrote something to the effect that “X has been neglected in the literature” and then discussed that. The reviewer wrote “X is *not* neglected” but failed to provide even one example. I would think that if the reviewer were that sure, he or she could come up with at least one example off the top of their head. If you can’t, then it suggests you are less sure than you claim. It may simply be that the reviewer felt the point was so obvious that he or she need not prove anything to such an obvious dullard as myself. The ultimate result, however, is that the review was almost entirely unhelpful to me.

Maybe sometime I’ll come up with a typology for types of reviews. I’ve received a wide variety, from glowing to absolutely nasty. I think my favorite might be a review for my textbook draft, where the reviewer said that he or she would probably adopt it, but needed to make sure it had a nice looking book cover.

3 comments:

Michelle 10:27 AM  

Yes, a typology of reviews would be fun.

I once got a 1 sentence review after waiting 10+ months. "The paper on X is descriptive and wonky."

WONKY? Huh?

Greg Weeks 11:25 AM  

I had another one saying the fact that my article was well-written constituted proof that it was too simplistic.

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