What I learned from the peer review process
25/05/2012 § 10 Comments
Back in March 2011, Micah wrote a post on the need for LIS students to foster a culture of writing and sharing. I followed his advice (as it has yet to lead me astray!), and this past semester I started as a Content Editor of San Jose State University’s SLIS Student Research Journal (SRJ). I also submitted a paper I wrote in the fall semester to Library Student Journal (LSJ), which has been accepted for publication. Both experiences, as a reviewer and reviewee, have been great — so I thought I’d share a little bit about them.
As a Content Editor for SRJ, I review papers that have been submitted for publication. The process is blind, so I have no idea who wrote the manuscripts I review — and the authors don’t know who is reviewing their papers. My review is based on a detailed rubric that’s publicly available. Besides clear writing, the main things I generally look for are a research question, thesis, strong argument, and connection to other scholarly literature. I also consider if the topic is original and contributes to the existing scholarly discussion. I’ve gained a lot from being a reviewer — mainly, I’ve greatly improved my ability to articulate my criticisms better. Being a peer reviewer has also exposed me to a variety of LIS topics I would never have read otherwise. I’d list some of them, but it’d give away what manuscripts I reviewed! The reviewer perspective has also helped shape my current approach to research and writing by knowing what qualities can improve a paper.
The process of submitting a paper for publication is generally something like:
- submit your paper based on the author/submission guidelines on the journal’s website
- receive comments on your paper — you’ll probably be grouped in one of these categories: immediate reject, accept with minor revisions, accept with major revisions, provisional acceptance
- based on the category you fall into, you can decide to proceed with the process and revise your paper to submit again — or decide against revisions and withdraw your manuscript
My experience with LSJ involved receiving initial feedback, doing some minor revisions, re-submitting it, receiving feedback from the copy editor, and then revising it again.
Back in January, I questioned the value of the final research paper. I found that submitting my paper for publication in LSJ motivated me to further work on a piece of research I started in class and turn it into something I felt more confident about. Having a few sets of eyes look over it and give me feedback was really helpful. Even if my paper wasn’t accepted for publication, I still think the comments I received were incredibly valuable. I realized areas I need to work on, such as inserting my own voice into my writing instead of relying on quoting sources. Based on comments from the editors, I ended up revising my paper twice — and the final product is definitely way better than my original submission. Yes, it can be hard to receive criticism, but how else can you learn to improve?
So in summary, publishing experience (in either role — reviewer or reviewee) helps sharpen your research and writing skills in different ways. I definitely encourage all students to submit your work for publication — you’ll probably receive different feedback than what you get from your professor, and the process allows you to further explore research you’ve already started.
Have you submitted a paper for publication? If so, what’d you think of the process? If not, what’s stopping you?