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How to Review a Paper

The aim of peer review is to provide authors with constructive feedback from subject experts, so that they can make improvements to their manuscript. This is of key importance to ensure the highest possible standard of the published record.

In order to provide the most constructive review experience to the authors, we expect reviewers to be familiar with the ‘Instructions for Authors’ of the Journal that they are reviewing for, and to provide detailed comments that are positive, polite and help the authors to improve their article. Any personalised criticisms or rude language may be viewed by the editor as indicating a personal bias. Reviewers should not allow their peer reviews to be influenced by the origins of a manuscript, by the nationality, religious, political beliefs, gender, or other characteristics of the authors.

Note that any paper sent to you for peer review is a privileged confidential document. This means that you cannot use the information obtained during the peer-review process for your own or any other person or organization’s advantage or to disadvantage or discredit others. You should also not enter information from a submission into AI tools as this violates peer review confidentiality.

You should also not contact authors directly; this is to protect your anonymity as IWA Publishing does not share your identity with authors. Comments should only be submitted to the journal via the peer review system.


When you receive an invitation to review

Before you decide to accept or decline the invitation to review, you should consider:

  • Do you have the required expertise to provide a high-quality review?
  • Do you have the time to complete the review within the timeframe given?
  • Do you have any conflicts of interest? E.g. you are at the same institution as one or more of the authors; you have collaborated with one or more of the authors in the past 5 years; you know the authors personally. If so, please inform the editor.

If you’re not able to review the manuscript, please suggest alternate reviewers.


Providing a review

Initial read

When beginning your review, you should start by reading the manuscript. During this initial read, you should consider:

  • Is the paper in scope for the journal? The Editor will assess this prior to sending the invitation to you; however, as a reviewer you should also consider this.
  • Does the paper provide insight into an important issue, and stimulate new, important questions?
  • Is the length of the paper within the limits of the journal?
  • Is the paper structured properly (abstract, keywords, material and methods, discussion, conclusions, references, etc.)?
  • Is the paper interesting for an international audience?
  • Does the paper read well and is there a high probability that the paper will be read and cited by others?
  • Is the paper commercial or does it market a particular product or method?
  • Do you have any ethical concerns? E.g. duplicate submission, plagiarism, papermills, image manipulation, data fabrication, undeclared conflicts of interest etc. If so, please highlight these to the editor.

Make notes as needed and following this initial read, you will likely have a feel for your recommended decision i.e. Accept, Reject, Revise. If at this stage you feel that the paper should be rejected, you can submit your recommendation with clear and detailed reasoning.

Please note that many authors do not have English as their mother tongue. The text does not need to be in perfect English, but it has to be clear and understandable. You may add a recommendation of closer proofreading or a professional English language editor if appropriate. Please phrase your feedback appropriately and with due respect.


Detailed read

Now that you have a general feel for the manuscript, you should read through it again and pay attention to each section as follows, making notes as you go.

Hint: use your own word processor at this stage.

Title and Abstract

  • Do these accurately represent the content of the manuscript?
  • Can the abstract stand alone, and does it outline the problem that the research is addressing and the conclusions of the research?



  • Does this provide context to the research and is the cited literature relevant?
  • Is the contribution of the paper within the wider literature clear?
  • Is the hypothesis clear?


Materials and Methods

  • Has the study been designed appropriately and has sufficient detail been provided to allow it to be repeated?
  • Experiments: Are experiments documented adequately? Have information about positive and/or negative controls, and the numbers of replicated experiments and/or samples been provided?
  • Model derivation: Is the process model derived properly? Is it already known?
  • Have the appropriate ethical considerations been made and approvals acquired?



  • Are they presented so that you can easily see their significance?
  • Are concentrations shown with believable accuracy - or are they shown with too many significant digits?
  • Data analysis: Have statistics been used in an appropriate way? Is the raw data presented in such a way that you can see if the statistical method is adequate? Is the data normally distributed so that standard deviations are motivated? Are outliers discussed?
  • Figures: Can the figures explain the results? Are the figure captions informative?
  • Tables: Are all the inputs in the tables necessary to understand the message?



  • Has the author explained and interpreted the results?
  • Can you relate the discussion to the hypotheses outlined in the Introduction?
  • Have the results been critiqued against the literature? Have any similarities and discrepancies with other published data been identified and accounted for?



  • Can the conclusions be derived from the results and the discussions?
  • Do the perceptions or hypotheses in the introduction match the conclusions?



  • Are the references appropriate to the paper and all cited within the text?
  • Is the reference list reflective of the literature on the subject, including both older and newer references?
  • Is there an appropriate number of references?
  • Where there has been self-citation, is this appropriate?


Writing your reviewer report

Your comments

Once you have finished your detailed read, collect your notes and start to complete your reviewer form. We recommend that you firstly summarise your thoughts on the paper and then provide detailed comments, highlighting specific sections or lines in the manuscript as needed.


  • Authors will welcome positive feedback as well as specific, constructive suggestions, but all comments should be polite and unbiased.
  • Strengths and weaknesses should be highlighted with plenty of examples, looking through all sections of the paper.
  • Your comments for the “Editor only” will NOT be sent to the author.
  • Comments that will be transmitted to the author(s) should not reveal your identity.
  • When providing comments to the authors, please do not suggest that the authors include references to your own work in their article. We do not allow reviewers to instruct authors to cite their work unless it seems to be critical for the improvement of the submission. Even then, we only allow reviewers to suggest one of their own papers.
  • Any ethical concerns MUST be highlighted to the editor in the “Editor only” comments box.


Your recommendation

Ensure that your final evaluation corresponds to your answers and comments in the review form and submit your recommendation. Your recommendation should align with your comments.

If you recommend that the paper be revised, please indicate whether you would be happy to review the revised paper.

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