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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Peer Review

About peer review, its role in scholarly publishing, how to do it and best practices


This guide to peer review is written for those who want a better understanding of how peer review works in scholarly communication ecosystems, and for those who are providing peer review in different contexts. The sections of this guide are designed to help you answer questions such as:

Note: Peer review practices can vary based on the field of study, the work type, and the publisher or platform. For guidance on evaluating scholarly communication providers, see Choosing Your Publisher and a "red flag" checklist for Predatory Publishers.

What is Peer Review?

Peer review is defined as obtaining advice on individual manuscripts from reviewers expert in the field who are not part of the editorial staff. Grant proposals, preprints, journal articles, data, books and conference submissions may all be subjects of peer review, with the goal of building trust in the validity, accuracy, quality and originality of the work.

Researchers/authors, reviewers, editors and readers all have stakes in ethical, unbiased and fair peer review. The process may vary in scope and execution depending on discipline and source material. The NISO Standard for Peer Review Terminology recognizes 4 categories within which a journal publisher may vary its practice:

  1. Identity transparency - from all identities visible to triple anonymized;
  2. Who the reviewer interacts with - editor, other reviewers, and/or authors;
  3. Review information published - 11 types, multiple may apply, e.g. reviewer identities, review reports, editor identities;
  4. Post-publication commenting - open or on invitation.

These categories may apply to other types of work under review. The publisher or agency should clearly address how it conducts peer review within these categories.

This video gives an overview of the process of peer review and why it matters in academic research. (North Carolina State University, 2014, 3:15 mins)

The 7 Common Types of Peer Review

7 Common Types of Peer Review Infographic: Single Blind, Double Blind, Open, Collaborative, Third-Party, Post-Publication, Cascading

Best Practices

Peer review plays a critical role in research integrity and building knowledge, but it can have flaws stemming from bias, competing interests, delays, impertinence and/or lack of expertise. Other pages in this guide provide best practices or guidelines in specific circumstances (e.g. source material or publisher); we recommend these two sources in general:

Note: unethical and predatory publishers may provide misleading or no information about their peer review practices. See more about how to detect predatory publishers.