The following are answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB) peer review process. We hope this information proves useful to both new and experienced reviewers and contributes to the quality of the journal.
JVIB invites individuals to apply to become peer reviewers. If you feel your academic expertise qualifies you to become a JVIB peer reviewer, please send your name, contact information, areas of expertise, and a copy of your latest CV to: Sandra Lewis, Ed.D., Editor in Chief, JVIB, Florida State University; e-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
1. What role do peer reviewers play in the JVIB editorial decision-making process?
Peer review is absolutely central to the process of selecting papers that will be published. As soon as papers come in, they are acknowledged and entered in the manuscript log. Within two to three days, the editor in chief reads the manuscript and assigns at least two peer reviewers. The associate editor also reads selected manuscripts and selects peer reviewers. The author's identity is never revealed to the peer reviewers. The editor in chief considers the peer reviews in making the final decision.
2. How are reviews conveyed to authors?
The editor in chief writes to the authors informing them of the decision and enclosing a copy of the peer reviews. Because it is most efficient to simply send a copy of the reviewers' comments to the authors (with identifying information removed), any information or comments that might be inappropriate for the authors should be separated on a separate sheet labeled "comments to the editors."
3. What kinds of reviews are most helpful to the authors and the editorial staff?
Reviews should be specific, concrete, to the point, and detailed. Avoid such generalizations as needs more references—specify what kind and where the text needs citations to back it up. If possible, even give the author a list of the references you would like to see included and why. Avoid some of the sentences are unclear and awkward—tell the author which ones. Do not write we need more information about the subjects—tell the author what kind of information (for example, ages, etiologies, or education). Also, the more specific your suggestions for revisions are, the easier it is for the editors to determine whether those revisions have been made once we receive the revised manuscript.
If you like, you may make notes and queries on the manuscript itself for your own reference. However, authors will receive only your "comments to the author" sheet, and therefore all your notations should be duplicated on that sheet.
4. How should I decide whether to recommend "accept," "ask authors to revise for acceptance," or "reject, but invite to revise and resubmit"? When should a paper be rejected outright?
You should recommend "accept" when no revisions of any kind are needed. It is very rare that papers receive this recommendation during the initial review.
Ask authors to revise for acceptance
You should choose "ask authors to revise for acceptance" when an article needs only minor revisions. No substantial changes should be needed in the content of the article. The nature of any revisions should be such that the editors can cross-check the revised manuscript with the peer reviewers' comments and determine whether the appropriate changes have been made (e.g., rearranging sections of text, elaborating on certain points, adding a conclusion or summary, and changing the format or references to APA style). Your comments should be specific and detailed to provide the author with clear guidance on how to revise the paper. These manuscripts should need only one round of revision. Review of the revised manuscript is handled by the editorial staff, so these papers are not sent out for additional peer review.
Reject, but invite to revise and resubmit
You should recommend "reject, but invite to revise and resubmit" when an article has the potential to add to the field's knowledge base, but (a) the paper needs significant and substantial revision in its content, (b) the revised manuscript needs to be evaluated by a peer reviewer who is a content-specific expert, (c) two or more rounds of revision are likely to be needed before final acceptance, and/or (d) the content would be presented best as a Research Report or Practice Report. Articles with this recommendation will be returned to the authors, and the authors will be invited to revise their paper in accordance with the reviewers' recommendations and suggestions. Therefore, your comments should be specific and detailed to provide the author with clear guidance on how to revise the paper. If you feel that the content of the paper is more appropriate for a Research Report or Practice Report (about six double-spaced pages or 1,500 words in length), then this recommendation should be made, along with suggestions reducing the length of the manuscript. When the authors resubmit the paper, it will be treated as a new manuscript and will be sent out for full peer review.
You should recommend "reject" if the article does not have the potential, even with substantial rewriting and revision, to add to the knowledge base of the field. In such a situation, please provide a rationale for your decision, but do not include recommendations for revising the article. The authors will receive the peer reviewers' comments and rationale, but they will not be invited to resubmit their manuscript.
5. Should I check the article's references?
Some journals ask peer reviewers to check bibliographic references at random. We do not require this, since so many of our reviewers work in practice settings and do not have ready access to reference sources. However, if you do have access, feel free to comment on references. Whether you have easy access or not, you should look for some things. Are points and facts referenced? Are recent references listed when they can and should be? Are obvious references included?
Even if you do not have access to research facilities, please do mention in your review whether references are current and ask the author to update them if they are not. Also, check to see that the paper uses scholarly rather than media-type sources (unless there is specific justification). In controversial fields, check that the paper covers all the disputed perspectives.
6. How many papers can I expect to review each year?
This number varies, depending on the peer reviewer's area of expertise, how many reviewers we have in that area, and the number of submissions on that topic we receive at any given time. When we are preparing for a special issue, for example, reviewers whose expertise is relevant to the special issue's topic will be likely to receive many manuscripts in a concentrated period of time. Conversely, reviewers in unrelated areas may experience a dry spell. Other factors influence how many manuscripts a reviewer receives, such as his or her timeliness in meeting deadlines for past reviews and the thoroughness of those reviews.
7. Should I comment on whether a research article has implications for practitioners?
Yes. Authors should be encouraged to discuss how the findings of their study might affect the day-to-day services delivered by educators, rehabilitation specialists, and other practitioners. If the author does not include this information, peer reviewers should give them guidance on creating a section called "Implications for Practice."
8. Should I comment on grammar, style, and organization in reviews?
We are totally dependent on you for your feedback on content, and it is in this area that we would like you to focus most of your attention. However, obstacles in writing can obstruct the meaning of a piece, and problems in grammar and style may be factors in the decision whether or not to publish a piece. All peer reviewers are encouraged to purchase a copy of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA). However, reviewers are busy people, and minor changes in such areas as spelling and grammar will be taken care of during the copyediting of an article.
9. Should I comment on length?
Yes. JVIB guidelines state that the preferred length for an article is 2,000 to 5,000 words. Articles that are overly long often alienate readers—even motivated readers. The focus of such articles and the clarity of their content can be improved through shortening. Helping an author to shorten an article is an important part of the review process.
10. When should I disqualify myself as a reviewer?
When you know you will not be able to meet the deadline for whatever reasons—such as travel, sabbatical, or press of work. (If you want to continue reviewing while you are on sabbatical, let us have your temporary address in advance.)
When you have a direct involvement with the work the paper covers. For example, you are an employee (or were at the time of the study) of the institution involved or were a dissertation advisor on the work in question.
When you have such strong feelings or opinions that you believe you cannot be objective.
When you believe that the topic is outside your area of expertise. However, not having written your dissertation on the subject is not necessarily a reason for disqualification.
When you are sure that you know who the authors of the paper are and thus believe that you cannot be objective. However, thinking that you know who wrote the piece is not necessarily a disqualification (sometimes you could be wrong!).
When you helped write the paper, reviewed it already (as a friend or colleague), or have an animosity toward the topic or method used (such as a dislike for qualitative work in general).
11. Can I show the manuscript to other people or discuss it before it has been published?
In general, you should not talk about papers that you are reviewing. The peer review process is confidential. However, sometimes you might want to get a particular colleague's perspective on a topic if the piece includes concerns that you do not feel you can confidently address.
12. Can I keep or copy the manuscripts I review?
No. Both because manuscripts are the intellectual property of the authors and because the review process is confidential, the integrity of the review system and, therefore, of JVIB would be jeopardized if manuscripts were copied or kept by peer reviewers.
13. Can I receive some sample reviews to guide me?
Some reviews (with all identifying information removed) that are representative of what constitutes a useful review are available on request.
14. Sometimes the number of tables or the tables' content is inappropriate in a manuscript. How should I instruct an author when this is the case?
When reviewing tables, you should ask: Do the tables give information that supports the text? Are they arranged in a standard, clear manner?
Like pictures and figures, tables need to support the text, and if they do not they should be eliminated. They should be easily accessible to the reader—clear, direct, and concise. In general, there should be no more than one small- to medium-size table per thousand words of text.
Apart from creating an expensive production item, too many tables can often overwhelm a text instead of enhance it. Also, authors sometimes use tables as a substitute for text, which interrupts the continuity and logic of a paper. If this is the case, advise authors to reduce the number of tables. There are two ways to reduce tables: One is to drop the tables and cover the information in the text; the other is to combine the tables judiciously. The latter is tricky; if done well, it can enhance the tables, but there is a risk of data overload.
15. Is JVIB interested in qualitative research, and if so, how do I evaluate it?
JVIB would like to encourage the submission of qualitative papers that interpret, describe, and narrate what has taken place. Qualitative papers can provide an additional, even necessary, dimension when survey data require supplementary, descriptive information or when a topic lends itself more to discussion than to conclusions. Single- and multiple-case histories and ethnographies are especially welcome.
A paper should not be dismissed simply because it does not include quantitative data. However, qualitative research papers still need to be systematic and rigorous.
You still need to ask the questions: Does the piece have the potential to provoke thought within the field of visual impairment and blindness or to help practitioners better perform their professional duties, add new knowledge, serve as a notation on previously published work, or have the potential to stimulate notations by others? Also, it is equally important in qualitative and quantitative studies to give a detailed account of sample selection, sample characteristics, and observation (including questioning) methods.
It is generally more important for a qualitative study to explain how the analysis was done; in quantitative studies that is usually fairly self-evident.
16. Should I assume that the manuscript I review is written for American audiences?
No. JVIB is an international journal. We want to make sure that the author is not assuming that the audience is American (or any other nationality) and will understand culture-bound references. If there are country- or culture-specific references in a paper, those references should be explained.
17. Where should I send my reviews?
Send reviews to: Sandra Lewis, Ed.D., Editor in Chief, JVIB, Florida State University; e-mail: <email@example.com>.