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   Table of Contents      
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 65  |  Issue : 8  |  Page : 656-657

What a reviewer wants?

1 Shri Bhagwan Mahavir Vitreoretinal Services, Sankara Nethralaya, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Associate Editor, Indian Journal of Ophthalmology, Mumbai, India

Date of Web Publication18-Aug-2017

Correspondence Address:
Vikas Khetan
Shri Bhagwan Mahavir Vitreoretinal Services, Sankara Nethralaya, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijo.IJO_699_17

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How to cite this article:
Khetan V, Sengupta S. What a reviewer wants?. Indian J Ophthalmol 2017;65:656-7

How to cite this URL:
Khetan V, Sengupta S. What a reviewer wants?. Indian J Ophthalmol [serial online] 2017 [cited 2020 May 26];65:656-7. Available from: http://www.ijo.in/text.asp?2017/65/8/656/213263

The purpose of scientific journals is to publish the best quality scientific research and disseminate new information to its readership. Many of these articles have the potential to alter daily practice patterns significantly and bring about better outcomes for our patients. Journal editors evaluate the scientific content of manuscripts by subjecting it through a process called “peer review.” To summarize, peer review involves participation not only of the editorial board but more importantly of “reviewers,” who are considered subject experts in that particular domain. Reviewers evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a study in light of the existing literature and send back valuable comments and critique to the editors. Collating comments from multiple reviewers helps the editors in making a final decision on the suitability of the manuscript for publication in the journal. Thus, it is clear that role of reviewers is central to the quality of manuscripts that are published in the journal.

Budding authors often receive comments from the editorial board regarding the disposition of their article and sometimes find it difficult to comprehend these comments. It is understandable that in the early days of scientific writing, authors experience more rejections. Once successful, authors soon become reviewers themselves. This editorial is aimed at making one understand what reviewers want and presents clear guidelines under which most experienced reviewers assess the quality of the manuscript.

The three broad categories under which reviewers evaluate a manuscript are originality, validity, and relevance. We will look at each of these concepts.

  Originality of a Manuscript Top

Originality in research means that it should be sufficiently novel and offer something new for readers. There is no point in answering a question that has already been answered previously. Reviewers determine the originality of a manuscript by doing a literature search themselves. Another strategy that reviewers use to determine originality is by looking at some of the full texts of the articles cited by the authors in their bibliography. It is often seen that authors claim to have reported the first study in a particular domain or a first ever case report when, in fact, reviewers may discover some previously published studies. It is critically important for authors to do a thorough literature search before claiming originality of their manuscripts.

It is not always necessary for the study idea and concept to be original. Reviewers also look at how data have been analyzed to decipher new information from the study. For example, even though a previous study showed that one drug or technique has significantly better results than the other, the current study may have a much larger sample enabling a robust regression analysis to tease out subgroups that are more likely to respond to a particular drug. Second, reviewers judge originality based on the study design. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are always preferred over prospective and retrospective studies in that order. A well-designed and conducted RCT may be considered favorably even if the study concept has been previously published using a retrospective study design.

  Relevance of a Manuscript Top

After originality, reviewers look at relevance of the study to current times. There is no point in answering a question that nobody is asking. The most relevant papers are those that change clinical practice patterns, add significantly to current literature, and most importantly, open up new areas of investigation. For example, a manuscript that reports on the outcomes of pegantanib in macular degeneration will be considered outdated for current times and may receive negative reviews. Authors should expedite their research and submit manuscripts soon to remain relevant for the readership.

  Validity of a Manuscript Top

The validity of the manuscript refers to how the study question was framed, and whether the manuscript follows a clear and logical progression from research question to conclusion. In terms of validity, the first thing reviewers ask themselves is “what is the study question?” A good study question is one which is clearly defined and whose answer is unknown. Clear definitions of outcome measures and variables that influence these outcome measures demonstrate the authors' clarity of thought and make a good impression on reviewers and ultimately readers. Finally, validity also depends on whether appropriate statistical analyses were used to derive the results. It is a good practice to report on median as well as mean for variables that have a lot of variability in their distribution. Reporting 95% confidence intervals where relevant, such as for odds ratios and β coefficients, add tremendously to the validity of the study and results.

  Quality of Writing Top

Reviewers appreciate manuscripts that adhere to a structured pattern and follow the IMRAD (Introduction, Methods, Results and Conclusions) format published previously.[1] The way the title is framed and the quality of the abstract writing convey the overall quality of the manuscript, so authors should concentrate on these areas carefully. Presentation of flowcharts that demonstrate patient flow during the study and tables and figures that represent the results accurately improve the quality of the manuscript and impress the reviewers.

Authors can really improve the quality of their manuscripts by utilizing internationally accepted checklists available at the equator network for different types of manuscripts such as the STROBE (for observational studies), CONSORT (for randomized trials), and RECORD (for retrospective studies).[2] Using a checklist approach not only makes manuscript writing easy and enjoyable but also ensures that certain nonnegotiable aspects are covered. Reviewers often use these checklists to ensure a fair and standardized review process. The instruction to authors' section of the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology makes these checklists readily available for our readership, and the editorial board urges all authors to prepare their future manuscripts using these checklists.

Finally, reviewers also evaluate whether the manuscript fits the scope of the journal. For example, an excellently planned, executed, and written epidemiologic study may be rejected by a purely clinical journal as it does not fit the scope of the journal.

  Conclusion Top

Reviewers determine the originality, relevance, and validity of a submitted manuscript and provide their comments on its merits and demerits. Using a checklist-based approach is a good way of preparing manuscripts. In the end, what reviewers want is really what the readership wants to see in the journal, i.e., manuscripts of high quality with new information that influences practice patterns.

  References Top

Sengupta S, Shukla D, Ramulu P, Natarajan S, Biswas J. Publish or perish: The art of scientific writing. Indian J Ophthalmol 2014;62:1089-93.  Back to cited text no. 1
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Available from: http://www.equator-network.org. [Last accessed on 2017 Aug 05].  Back to cited text no. 2


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