Guidelines for Reviewing Manuscripts

General Rules and Structure

Please note that the manuscript you have been asked to review is a privileged (confidential) communication. As outlined in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, an unpublished manuscript is entitled to copyright protection from the moment it is fixed in tangible form – for example, typed on a page.

Further, "…the author owns the copyright on an unpublished manuscript, and all exclusive rights due the owner of the copyright of a published work are also due the author of an unpublished work." Therefore, you may not circulate, quote, cite, or refer to the unpublished work, nor may you use information from the manuscript to advance your own work or instruction unless you obtain specific permission for such use from the author.

Manuscripts should not be given to students for educational purposes. You must request permission in advance from the Action Editor to share the manuscript with any other person, for example, if you wish to seek assistance from a colleague in preparing your review.

You are strongly encouraged to destroy any paper copies you have made and delete any electronic copies of the manuscript as soon as your review is completed. However, you may retain one copy of the manuscript until such time as the Action Editor sends you a copy of the editorial decision letter and other reviews of the manuscript. Within 48 hours of receiving these materials, you must destroy or delete any remaining copies of the manuscript.

Although JDHE uses a masked review process, if you suspect that one of the manuscript's authors is a person whose relationship to you might present a conflict of interest, for example (but not limited to), a recent collaborator, faculty colleague, or student; or if the acceptance or rejection of this manuscript might result in your own financial gain, you must inform the Manuscript Coordinator immediately so that the manuscript can be promptly reassigned.

Editorial Roles

As a reviewer, you are asked to serve two different roles: that of gatekeeper and that of consultant.

First, you are asked to make a recommendation to the Action Editor as to whether the manuscript should be accepted, rejected, or returned to the authors with an invitation to revise and resubmit. NOTE: This recommendation is made privately to the editor; narrative evaluations should not directly or indirectly communicate this recommendation to the author(s) of the manuscript under review.

Second, and equally important, you are asked to provide a detailed, educative narrative evaluation that the Action Editor will send to the authors. NOTE: The narrative evaluation is an important component of every review regardless of whether the reviewer recommends acceptance, rejection, revise and resubmit, or any other action to the editor.

These two tasks reflect the dual functions of the scientific peer review process.

The gate-keeping role requires you to render a judgment about whether this manuscript should eventually appear as a published article in JDHE, thereby becoming part of the permanent body of scholarly literature that will influence the journal's readers for many years to come, not only in terms of future research, but also in terms of the students, faculty, staff, administrators, institutions, organizations and communities served by the journal's readers.

Viewed from this perspective, it is difficult to conceive of a more important professional responsibility. Reviewers must remain constantly mindful of their obligation to future generations of researchers and communities to make these judgments with all the wisdom, fairness, and fidelity that they can bring to the task.

The role of consultant is no less important than that of gatekeeper. Detailed, educative, respectful reviews are a hallmark of JDHE that serve to improve the general quality of scholarship in our field.

The journal can accept only about one of every four manuscripts submitted, but we aspire to provide sufficiently high quality feedback so that authors whose manuscripts are rejected are encouraged to continue submitting their best work to the journal, and authors whose work is accepted receive valuable ideas for their next project.

We encourage you as a reviewer to see yourself as an anonymous consultant for every author, even (and especially) for manuscripts you believe should be rejected. Aspire to provide sufficiently helpful, educative feedback so that the next manuscript submitted by these authors makes a substantial contribution to the literature and is of publishable quality. In this way, you will fulfill the second vitally important role of a JDHE reviewer, that of contributing to the development of future scholarship.

Publication Recommendation

In making your publication recommendation, please consider these guidelines adapted from the APA Publication and Communication (P&C) Board:

To merit publication each manuscript must make an original, valid, and significant contribution to an area of higher education diversity appropriate for the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education. That is:

  • A manuscript cannot have been published, in whole or in part, in another journal or readily available work.
  • A manuscript must be accurate, and the conclusions and generalizations must follow from the data.
  • A manuscript must be more than free of major fault — it must be an important contribution to the literature.
  • A manuscript must be appropriate for the journal to which it is submitted.

For a manuscript not meeting all those criteria, you will usually recommend rejection, with detailed reasons for your recommendation.

As you consider these policies in formulating your publication recommendation to the Action Editor, it may be helpful to think in terms of the answers to three sequential questions:

  1. Is the topic of the manuscript appropriate for JDHE?
  2. Does the manuscript make a significant scientific contribution?
  3. Can the flaws in this manuscript be remedied in a revision?

Narrative Evaluation

General Style

The narrative should be phrased as a communication between you and the author about the manuscript. Please refer to the authors of the manuscript sparingly and, when doing so, use the third person. Critical feedback tends to be easier to accept when a review refers to some aspect of "the manuscript" and avoids phrasing in the second person.

Organization

Many reviewers begin their narrative with a paragraph summarizing the study. This practice serves two useful functions.

First, it provides a brief statement of your essential understanding of the study and its findings, thereby, authors are reassured that you have read the manuscript in detail.

Second, this paragraph serves to remind you about the study weeks later when you receive copies of the editorial decision letter and other reviews.

Next, many reviewers add a paragraph or two commenting generally on the manuscript. Commendable features can be mentioned in this section. The strengths of the manuscript should be described in some detail.

It is important for authors to know what you think they have done well, together with your comments about what should be changed. This paragraph might also be the best place to point out problems with APA Style that crop up throughout the manuscript, for example, biased use of language.

For both the Action Editors and the authors, clear separation of major and minor points is crucial. A more effective review will emerge when you are able to separate the forest from the trees.

What are the most salient points regarding the manuscript that you wish to share? Making these clear and listing and explaining them is very helpful. Please help the authors and Action Editor step-back to see the forest, or larger issues, and help differentiate them from the smaller, more specific issues.

Length

It is important that reviews provide enough information that the Action Editors and authors have enough to understand the evaluation. This is usually about a single spaced page in length. Most reviews provide much more than minimal evaluative comments.

Summary of Issues to Include in a Review

  • Is the manuscript important?
  • Is the manuscript fixable? How could it be altered?
  • What are the key points and what are the more particular points and are these differentiated?
  • In general, good reviews do not exceed 2 pages single spaced (there are always exceptions).
  • Keep in mind that you too are an author and ask yourself what would a good review look like if this were your manuscript?

Joint Reviews With a Student

The Collaborative Review Model (CRM) is the approved P&C Board mentoring model for manuscript reviewing and general introduction into the APA publications pipeline.

The CRM asks a participating reviewer to consider using others in a mentor/mentee review process.

The CRM requires

  • prior notification to and approval from the inviting editor
  • the reviewing mentor to train the graduate student/early career professional mentee about the scholarly, legal, and ethical parameters prior to distributing a confidential manuscript
  • that the reviewing process is a collaborative product developed at the direction of the senior reviewer
  • that all reviewers' names are submitted with the review so that students and early career professionals receive credit for their work

Thus, the CRM mentorship program involves a total collaborative "working together jointly" type of review in which the senior person walks the student through the review process step-by-step and mentors the student in a repeated series of meetings.

On submission of a review via the JBO, reviewers will now be able to add one co-reviewer to their paper, and on submission of their review have this new reviewer's contact information added to the JBO pool automatically. If the co-reviewer is still a pre-doctoral student, that individual will be marked as a student and his/her name will not display on future search results. However, if the person is a post-doctoral fellow or working professional, the name will be available for future reviewer requests.

Notes

Revised August 2011

In preparing this document, I have slightly modified an earlier guide developed by Brent Mallinckrodt (dated 8/4/2006) and revised by Terry Tracey (August, 2010). There have been many versions of this document and thus this version owes much (most) to previous authors including Charles Gelso, Sam Osipow, Clara Hill, and Jo-Ida Hansen.