Navigating the peer review process

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Peer review is a process that is undertaken by credible scholarly journals to ensure the content published is of a high academic standard. Journal editors select subject experts who evaluate submitted text for research rigour and for its suitability for publication.

Another way of thinking about peer review is that it is a process that can improve the quality of your work. It is an opportunity for you to see your article through the eyes of experts and peers in the field, and to critically reflect on its content in order to strengthen it. Even Nobel Prize winning papers will be carefully reviewed!

Types of peer review

Journals can utilise different types of peer review. The three most common types are:

  1. Double-blind peer review: The identity of both authors and reviewers is anonymous. This is the most used and often prestigious type of peer review.
  2. Single-blind peer review: The identity of reviewers is anonymous.
  3. Open peer review: The identity of authors and reviewers is known to both parties.

The peer review process

The peer review process usually consists of the following steps:

Steps Detail
1. Submission Journal editors receive submission and make a decision as to whether it goes to peer review.
2. Screening If the article is deemed acceptable for peer review, journal editors would then contact relevant experts. If not, journal editors would typically inform the author(s) of their decision.
3. Reviewers assigned Usually two peer reviewers carry out the evaluation of the paper and are given some guidelines and a timeframe for carrying out the task.
4. Reviewer assessment Once the peer reviewers have assessed the paper, they let the editors know of the outcome of their review and send accompanying comments / feedback for the author(s). Sometimes, if the two reviewers disagree as to whether the article should be published, the editor may seek the opinion of a third reviewer.
5. Peer review outcome The author is notified if the publication has been rejected or accepted (subject to any revisions required).


The above common peer review steps are illustrated in the following video.

ANU video on the peer review process (03:18 mins)

Peer Review Process (03:18min) by ANU University LIbrary (YouTube).

The typical turn-around time for peer review is 14 weeks. If you have not heard back, re-check the journal for expected response time and allow 2 more weeks before tactfully emailing the editor.​

Do not send your paper to another journal until you have a response.​ Use the waiting time to work on other tasks (e.g. writing another paper).

Peer review outcomes

Once peer reviewers have evaluated your work, they usually send their assessment to the journal editor. The journal editor in turn considers the peer review evaluations and notifies you of the final outcomes for the paper. These can be:

  1. Yes – we’ll publish this paper and no changes are needed.​ (Accept)
  2. Yes – we’ll publish this paper subject to some minor changes in line with reviewer comments.​ (Accept subject to minor changes)
  3. Maybe / No – we won’t publish this in its current form. However, if major changes are made in line with reviewer comments, we might. (Reject and Resubmit)     ​
  4. No – we won’t publish this under any circumstances. (Reject)

For many high-ranking journals, the first outcome is rare while the fourth (the” Reject” response) is extremely common.

Responding to reviewers’ comments

In most cases, if your article has been accepted for publication, it will require making changes (major or minor) that respond to reviewers’ comments.

Here are a few recommendations when responding to these comments:

The following table provides you with a template that you can use in responding to reviewers’ comments.

Reviewer Comments Author Response
Reviewer 1 1. …
2. …
3. …
Reviewer 2 1. …
2. …

Dealing with rejection

Remember, rejection of publication happens to everyone. Consider yourself in good company – Animal FarmGone With the Wind and Harry Potter were all rejected multiple times before they were published!

Rejection can also be a very useful learning process, even if it hurts!

It is equally important to know that, despite publication rejection, you still have a number of choices available. You can:

  • Submit your article to another journal
  • Revise and resubmit the article to the same journal
  • Revise and resubmit the article to a different journal
  • Appeal the decision
  • Abandon the article (for now)

Further resources

For more information on the peer review process:


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Research and Writing Skills for Academic and Graduate Researchers Copyright © 2022 by RMIT University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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