How to review

Here are the essential points to remember when conducting a review for BMJ.

 

Confidentiality

All unpublished manuscripts are confidential documents. If we invite you to review an article please do not discuss it even with a colleague: if you would like to pass it on to someone else to review, please email the editorial office.

Take ownership of your comments

As a reviewer you will be advising the editors, who make the final decision (aided, if necessary, by an editorial committee for all research articles and most analysis articles). We will notify you of our decision. Authors will see your report, so please do not make any comments that you are not prepared to stand by.

Authors can nominate other BMJ Journals that they would like their manuscript to go to automatically if it is rejected by the first journal. The system also passes on editors’ comments and peer reviewers’ reports relating to that manuscript, to facilitate the review process at the next BMJ Journal. This means that your review might be read by other editors within BMJ (the publishing group) in due course.

Declare any competing interests

When you provide your review we will ask you to declare any competing interest that might relate to the article.

Provide details

Please give detailed and constructive comments (with references, whenever possible) that will both help the editors to make a decision on the article and the authors to improve it.

 

Quick guide to a good review

 

For all articles
  • What contribution does the article make to existing knowledge?
  • Does the article read well and make sense?
  • Does the article have a clear message?
For research articles
  • Originality — does the work add to what is already in the published literature? If so, what does it add? Please cite relevant references to support your comments on originality.
  • Importance of the work to general readers — does this work matter to clinicians, researchers, policymakers, educators, or patients? Will it help our readers to make better decisions and, if so, how? Is the content appropriate for the journal?
  • Scientific reliability
    • Research question — is it clearly defined and appropriately answered?
    • Overall design of study — is it appropriate and adequate to answer the research question?
    • Participants — are they adequately described, the conditions defined, inclusion and exclusion criteria described? How representative were they of patients whom this evidence might affect?
    • Methods — are they adequately described? Is the main outcome measure clear? Is the study fully reported in line with the appropriate reporting statement or checklist? (These are all collected and regularly updated at equator-network.org) Was the study ethical? (This may go beyond simply whether the study was approved by an ethics committee or IRB)
    • Results — do they answer the research question? Are they credible? Well presented?
    • Interpretation and conclusions — are they warranted by and sufficiently derived from/focused on the data? Are they discussed in the light of previous evidence? Is the message clear?
    • References — are they up to date and relevant? Are there any glaring omissions?
    • Abstract/summary/key messages/what this paper adds — do they reflect accurately what the paper says?
    • Documents in the supplemental files, e.g., checklists for reporting statements, e.g., CONSORT, PRISMA, and STROBE (see equator-network.org for other examples and for extensions to existing statements); and the protocol for an RCT. Do these properly match what is in the manuscript? Do they contain information that should be better reported in the manuscript, or raise questions about the work?

Not all of these points will be relevant for non-research articles. Please use your discretion about the above list when reporting on other types of article.

Resources

Before writing your review you may find it helpful to browse our resources for authors, advice on the journal’s article types and our training materials for peer reviewers that have been created for The BMJ.