Resources For Reviewers

We provide the following FAQ to help TIA reviewers understand the journal's philosophy to reviewing, to make the overall review process more transparent, and to provide reviewers suggestions and best-practices for writing the best reviews possible. If the answer to your question isn't here, feel free to contact the editorial team.

General Approach to Reviewing

Special Considerations for Reviewing

Recommendations for Publication 

What is the journal’s general philosophy of reviewing?

While the review process is embedded within an evaluative system, the TIA editorial team firmly believes that the reviewing process should be formative in nature and should contribute to the professional growth of both authors and reviewers. Authors should benefit from reviewers’ knowledge of the field and methodological approaches, the growth-minded feedback reviewers provide, and the care reviewers take to help authors produce their best work. Reviewers should develop broader and deeper knowledge of the field and its methodological approaches, skill providing constructive feedback to authors, and empathy for authors navigating the scholarly publication process.

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What does a good review look like?

A good review–one that helps authors produce their best work and guides editors in the decision-making process…

  • provides formative feedback from the perspective of a reader to authors to help them improve their work, regardless of the manuscript’s current stage (i.e., initial submission, revision). Readerly feedback includes comments about things you as a reader find interesting or surprising, things you want to know about, things that confuse you, and comments about things you believe would better support the authors’ arguments.
  • focuses on 3-4 major suggestions that you believe will make the most substantive improvements to the work. Although seemingly counterintuitive, it is not uncommon for reviews of less well-developed manuscripts to be shorter (½ - ¾ page) than better-developed ones (1 - 1½ pages). It’s simply harder to give precise feedback to less well-developed manuscripts.
  • includes information about important bodies of literature or specific references that would strengthen the article, and avoids faulting authors for failing to cite a specific source or line of inquiry.
  • adopts a tone that is supportive and empathetic and avoids sounding overly critical, argumentative, or combative.
  • avoids micro-editing and copyediting suggestions, except where used as examples of revision for clarity or tone. 
  • offers editors additional details in the “Editors Only” comment box about your publication recommendation.
  • is completed by the due date.

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What do the best reviewers do?

These tips for reviewing were collected in the spring of 2022 from the POD Network listserv. We asked: If you have received a great review on one of your manuscripts or have figured out how to give great reviews to others, we’d love to hear about it. Here's a representative sample of what we received.

The best advice I've received for reviewing articles was from an editor who frequently reminded us to "review the article that was written, not the one that you wish had been written or the one that you would have written." (13-year reviewer; 7-year POD member; anonymous)

Think of reviewing as engaging in constructive, collegial conversation aimed at personal and professional growth (not as an opportunity to attack or belittle or dismiss or destroy). Start by affirming what is important about/working well in the manuscript and why; this both affirms authors' efforts and makes them more open to constructive feedback. Remind authors that comments are offered in the spirit of support and with the goal of making the manuscript more accessible and/grounded in or important steps beyond existing conversations. State explicitly that comments are offered with the goal of supporting development/improvement. Be concrete/specific about recommended revisions—detailed recommendations rather than general critiques or requests are much more helpful. Provide full citations for relevant references and indicate why/how the manuscript could contribute to or expand ongoing conversations. (20-year reviewer; 12-year POD member; Alison Cook-Sather)

After I read a manuscript, I pause to imagine a human being / human beings on the other side of it--regardless of how I react to what I've read. At times I can't fathom how I'm going to possibly say what I think I need to say in terms of critique (that praise comes more easily), so I write my reviews with the kinds of constructive honest and specific feedback in mind that I would like to receive if it were me on the other end. I work to be generous and supportive even as I am honest and suggest how the writer's / writers' work could meet a higher standard in the categories I've been asked to respond to. If possible, I suggest other outlets that might be more appropriate, or I mention other work in the field I would encourage the writer(s) to incorporate or explore. I work not to say simply what I think isn't working, rather, as with the work of a student writer, I suggest what would help the reader to follow an argument, to be more convinced, etc. I give examples where possible of what I mean so there is no ambiguity--which is hard when a writer can't consult the giver of the feedback for clarification. (20-year reviewer; 24-year POD member; anonymous)

I have found that more specific feedback is helpful to authors and to editors working with them. This includes references to specific page numbers and even inclusion of excerpts in the review that point to the concern being noted by the reviewer... I tend not to focus on mechanics unless they are truly getting in the way of my comprehension... I also think it is important to highlight key strengths of the article and how it will be of use and of interest to the specific audience the journal targets, including ways it adds something new to the scholarly exchange around a given topic. (28-year reviewer; 25-year POD member; anonymous)

Great reviewers use their strengths to guide their reviews. This means that if your strengths are in a specific realm a statistical method perhaps, or conducting research from a specific segment in the field, this is where your review should be rooted. Once it is rooted there, share references, give examples, guide the author as to what could work to boost the value of their manuscript towards the field. (10+year reviewer; Camille Dickson-Deane)

When reviewing a manuscript, I position myself in the role of a critical friend. Then I offer feedback to support the author in crafting a contribution that will be of use to the particular audience. (25-year reviewer; 19-year POD member; anonymous)

[L]eave copy editing to the copy editors. Reviewers should focus on the big ideas: Adequacy of the literature review, logic and organization of arguments, soundness of methodology, and interpretation of findings. (20-year reviewer; 16-year POD member; anonymous)

Don't commit to too many reviews--set a target for yourself, and then leave room for one or two extra in case an editor has an urgent need. (13-year reviewer; 4-year POD member; anonymous)

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What is the overall process and timeline for reviewing?

Once a manuscript is pre-reviewed by the primary editor, it is sent out to at least three reviewers who have expertise and interest in the article’s topic and methodological approaches. Reviewers are expected to respond to review invitations within 7 days and complete their reviews within 30 days. If a manuscript is reviewed favorably by all reviewers, this may be the last reviewers hear about the manuscript until you see it published in TIA. If the editor requests the authors revise and resubmit the work, you may get an invitation to re-review approximately two months later. Click to see the entire publication timeline.

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What should I do if I cannot meet a review deadline?

Reviewers are asked to respond to review invitations within 7 days and complete their reviews within 30 days. These deadlines help keep the process, which can take up to 6-18 months(!), moving forward. If you realize you cannot meet the review deadline but can complete it soon, email the primary editor and ask for an extension. If you cannot complete your review anytime soon, email the primary editor and ask that they reassign the review. The sooner you do so, the more able the editor is to find new reviewers and offer the authors timely feedback.

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What things should I consider when reviewing?

When you accept an invitation to review, you are sent a link to the manuscript and you are given the review criteria as an in-text form and downloadable template. You should lean on the criteria to guide your review but not feel limited by it. The section on content and argument is often where reviewers share the most helpful suggestions to authors and editors.

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How much time should it take me to review a manuscript?

It will likely take you 1-4 hours to carefully read a manuscript and provide growth-minded feedback to authors. The exact time it takes will depend on several factors. Manuscripts that are shorter will often take less time to review than longer ones. Those that are further in their development, that have been edited for clarity, that are well-situated in the literature, and those that are conceptually less complex will also take less time than others. Your familiarity with the content, the methodologies, or the background literature and your general experience reviewing–and your specific experience reviewing for To Improve the Academy–will also affect the time it takes you to review a manuscript. If you’ve already reviewed a manuscript that authors have revised and resubmitted, your re-review typically takes considerably less time.

If you find it takes you significantly more than 1-4 hours to complete a review, consider the following questions and possible solutions:

  • Is the feedback I’m providing too detailed? While it is tempting at times to fall into copyediting and wordsmithing mode, this level of feedback is time-consuming and not your responsibility. Keep your comments focused on the big ideas and let the editors and copy editors sort out the details.
  • Am I offering too much feedback? Even when offered in good faith, you can quickly overwhelm authors with feedback. Focus on making 3-4 major suggestions that you believe will make the most substantive improvements to the work. 
  • Do I have the appropriate background to review the manuscript? While it’s not uncommon to need to look up a reference or read a supporting paper when reviewing, if you need to do lots of background reading and research, the manuscript might not be a good fit for you as a reviewer. Simply email the primary editor and they can reassign the manuscript to another reviewer.
  • Is the manuscript developed enough? It may be that the manuscript is just not developed enough at this stage for you to provide useful and concise feedback. If this is the case, you can seek advice from the primary editor about how to proceed.

In some instances, it may take you less than an hour to complete your review, but these would be exceptional cases. As a self-check, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did I read the entire manuscript carefully and critically? Did I re-read complex sections or one’s I initially found confusing? Did I skim over sections I thought I knew or understood?
  • Did I take sufficient notes along the way to guide my high-level and specific feedback?
  • Did I proofread my review for precision, clarity, and tone?
  • Did I check for internal consistency between my feedback and my recommendation?

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Who should I contact if I have questions or need help?

Each article is assigned to a primary editor who is the main point of contact for the author and reviewers. If you have any questions, you can contact the editor by either replying to the review notification email or through your reviewer dashboard. TIA editors are also listed on the Contact page.

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What should I do if I do not feel qualified to review something?

While editors try to assign reviews based on reviewers content and methodological expertise, you may get something that you do not feel qualified to review. If you realize this when the editor invites you to review the manuscript, simply decline the review invitation. If you realize the mismatch after you accept the invitation, email the primary editor and let them know as soon as possible. Writers benefit from your knowledge and expertise, so don’t hesitate to let us know if an article falls outside of your wheelhouse.

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Why am I asked to re-review some manuscripts but not others?

Some manuscripts need only minor revision before publication, and many times the primary editor will conduct the re-review. When a manuscript requires more substantive revisions, the editor invites authors to revise and resubmit their work. In this case, the editors strive to reassign the revised article to the original reviewers, believing they are best positioned to respond to the authors’ revisions. Since authors are required to submit a “response to reviewers’ comments” along with their resubmission, re-reviews typically take considerably less time. On rare occasions, reviewers are asked to re-review manuscripts a second time.

When you complete your initial review, the review system prompts you to indicate your willingness to re-review a manuscript. The editorial team appreciates your willingness to re-review but will respect your wishes if you choose not to do so.

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What should I do if I believe I have a conflict of interest?

Conflicts of interest (COIs) occur when “a person is in a position to derive personal benefit from actions or decisions made in their official capacity” (Oxford Dictionary). In your role as a reviewer, you should contact the primary editor immediately if you believe there is a COI. The editor can help you determine the significance of the conflict and decide whether to continue or stop your reviewing process. Some examples of conflicts are the following:

  • You realize you might benefit financially from the published work.
  • You have a competing research agenda that will make it difficult for you to provide unbiased feedback.
  • The manuscript details make it clear to you who the authors are, AND your relationship with the authors might create an appearance of a COI.

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What do the different publication recommendations mean?

Reviewers are asked to make a publication recommendation for each manuscript they review: Accept; Minor Revisions; Major Revisions; Reject.

  • Accept indicates a well-developed and -written manuscript suitable for publication as-is following final copyediting.
  • Minor Revisions indicates a solid manuscript that could be improved with slight revision to organization, clarity, argument, and/or other components; this recommendation typically means the primary editor will work with the authors on revisions but will not send the revised manuscript back to the original reviewers for re-review. 
  • Major Revisions (aka Revise and Resubmit) indicates a manuscript that requires significant revision to organization, clarity, argument, and/or other components; this recommendation automatically triggers re-review. Whenever possible, editors invite earlier-round reviewers to re-review manuscripts following authors' revisions since they are best suited to gauge whether the authors sufficiently addressed initial concerns.
  • Reject indicates a manuscript currently unsuitable for TIA publication because, among other things, it lacks organization, clarity, argument, or other components, is pitched for the wrong audience, or is not situated in the literature. Multiple editors read rejected manuscripts and reviewer comments and come to consensus before this decision is rendered. While reviewers tend to shy away from this recommendation, it is appropriate when in your assessment and feedback you are not able to chart a clear path to revision.

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What impact does my recommendation have on the publication of a manuscript?

Your feedback and recommendations are an invaluable addition to the overall process. Your review contributes to the editor’s overall decision to accept, minor/major revision, or reject a manuscript, but it is considered along with other data streams: feedback from at least two other reviewers, the primary editor’s own evaluation of the manuscript, and sometimes an additional editor’s feedback. In the ideal case, all the reviewers provide consistent feedback and come to the same conclusion. There will be times, however, when reviewers disagree. This means at times you might recommend accepting a manuscript for publication, and the editor will reject it; other times you might recommend rejecting an article and the editor will accept it or invite the author to revise and resubmit. This does not mean your review was unhelpful or ignored. It simply reflects the complexity of the process and the fact that the primary editor must sort through conflicting opinions.

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Do authors see my publication recommendation?

Authors will see all of your comments in your review. However, at no time do authors see your publication recommendation (e.g., major revisions, minor revisions). Only editors see it. But, your review comments should be consistent with and reflective of the decision.  For example, if you recommend rejecting an article, your comments to the authors should make clear how the manuscript could be improved in its organization, clarity, argument, or other components, target audience, or relationship to the literature.

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