University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

For Reviewers

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WMJ Reviewer Guide

Overview of the editorial process

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Preliminary review by medical editor, who makes decision to distribute for review based on:

  • Fit with other work in WMJ
  • Quality/originality of research topic
  • Clarity of research question
  • Originality of methods
  • Writing style

Selection of peer reviewers:

  • Medical editor and WMJ staff select possible reviewers based on information in our volunteer reviewer database
  • WMJ staff sends request to reviewers with copy of manuscript, associated figures and due date (3 weeks from request date)
  • Reviewers reply to staff regarding availability/willingness to review

After reviews are returned:

  • Medical editor makes decision based on reviews
  • Letter is sent to corresponding author with anonymous reviewer comments
  • Staff sends copy of decision letter and comments to all reviewers for information

WMJ reviewer expectations/process Upon receiving e-mail query from WMJ staff:

  • Read abstract
  • Look at your schedule and requested due date
  • Respond yes or no. If you are unable to review, we need to know so we can ask someone else instead

Doing the review:

  • Make notes as you read the article
  • Note general questions, concerns, positives
  • Write review/make recommendations using Peer Track system.

Elements of a good review

  • Maintain a respectful tone (how would you react if you received it?)
  • Show evidence that you have read the manuscript; include a short summary of the paper at the beginning
  • Comment on all sections of the paper
  • Make suggestions for additional content, references, or other arguments


Elements of a poor review

  • Judgmental rather than descriptive
  • More about the reviewer than the manuscript
  • Not objective – reviewer has strong bias or an “axe to grind”
  • Insufficient – too short to be useful for editorial decision or feedback to author

Some hints about judging manuscript quality

  • Is the title appropriate?
  • Is the information presented useful/important?
  • How valid are the conclusions presented in the paper?
  • How old and how thorough are the references?
  • Is the paper well-written, clear and understandable to the general reader?

Writing the review

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Comments to the author:

  • General impressions (positives, concerns, questions [what wasn’t clear])
  • Suggestions for improvement
  • Specific items noted (List by page, paragraph and line number)

Comments to the editor:

  • Your judgment as to whether the manuscript should be accepted, and why (or why not)
  • Does it have a legitimate place in the medical literature?
  • Do you think it would make a good CME article?
  • Additional concerns (eg, duplicate publication; signs of plagiarism)

Possible editorial decisions:

  • Reject
  • Revise/resubmit
    • minor revisions required
    • major revisions required
  • Accept (Note: it is rare that a manuscript is accepted without at least minor revisions)

Critiquing your own review

After reviewing the all the peer reviewers’ comments, the medical editor sends a first decision letter to the corresponding author with the anonymous reviewers’ comments attached. As a reviewer, you will receive a copy of this letter. At that time, you should:

  • Compare your recommendation to the editor’s decision
  • Compare your review to those of the other reviewers, noting:
    • tone
    • specific points you caught or missed
    • potential usefulness to authors
  • Use this feedback to inform and improve your future reviews

Useful Links for WMJ Reviewers