Choose Your Test
Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 113 great research paper topics.
One of the hardest parts of writing a research paper can be just finding a good topic to write about. Fortunately we've done the hard work for you and have compiled a list of 113 interesting research paper topics. They've been organized into ten categories and cover a wide range of subjects so you can easily find the best topic for you.
In addition to the list of good research topics, we've included advice on what makes a good research paper topic and how you can use your topic to start writing a great paper.
What Makes a Good Research Paper Topic?
Not all research paper topics are created equal, and you want to make sure you choose a great topic before you start writing. Below are the three most important factors to consider to make sure you choose the best research paper topics.
#1: It's Something You're Interested In
A paper is always easier to write if you're interested in the topic, and you'll be more motivated to do in-depth research and write a paper that really covers the entire subject. Even if a certain research paper topic is getting a lot of buzz right now or other people seem interested in writing about it, don't feel tempted to make it your topic unless you genuinely have some sort of interest in it as well.
#2: There's Enough Information to Write a Paper
Even if you come up with the absolute best research paper topic and you're so excited to write about it, you won't be able to produce a good paper if there isn't enough research about the topic. This can happen for very specific or specialized topics, as well as topics that are too new to have enough research done on them at the moment. Easy research paper topics will always be topics with enough information to write a full-length paper.
Trying to write a research paper on a topic that doesn't have much research on it is incredibly hard, so before you decide on a topic, do a bit of preliminary searching and make sure you'll have all the information you need to write your paper.
#3: It Fits Your Teacher's Guidelines
Don't get so carried away looking at lists of research paper topics that you forget any requirements or restrictions your teacher may have put on research topic ideas. If you're writing a research paper on a health-related topic, deciding to write about the impact of rap on the music scene probably won't be allowed, but there may be some sort of leeway. For example, if you're really interested in current events but your teacher wants you to write a research paper on a history topic, you may be able to choose a topic that fits both categories, like exploring the relationship between the US and North Korea. No matter what, always get your research paper topic approved by your teacher first before you begin writing.
113 Good Research Paper Topics
Below are 113 good research topics to help you get you started on your paper. We've organized them into ten categories to make it easier to find the type of research paper topics you're looking for.
- Discuss the main differences in art from the Italian Renaissance and the Northern Renaissance .
- Analyze the impact a famous artist had on the world.
- How is sexism portrayed in different types of media (music, film, video games, etc.)? Has the amount/type of sexism changed over the years?
- How has the music of slaves brought over from Africa shaped modern American music?
- How has rap music evolved in the past decade?
- How has the portrayal of minorities in the media changed?
- What have been the impacts of China's one child policy?
- How have the goals of feminists changed over the decades?
- How has the Trump presidency changed international relations?
- Analyze the history of the relationship between the United States and North Korea.
- What factors contributed to the current decline in the rate of unemployment?
- What have been the impacts of states which have increased their minimum wage?
- How do US immigration laws compare to immigration laws of other countries?
- How have the US's immigration laws changed in the past few years/decades?
- How has the Black Lives Matter movement affected discussions and view about racism in the US?
- What impact has the Affordable Care Act had on healthcare in the US?
- What factors contributed to the UK deciding to leave the EU (Brexit)?
- What factors contributed to China becoming an economic power?
- Discuss the history of Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies (some of which tokenize the S&P 500 Index on the blockchain) .
- Do students in schools that eliminate grades do better in college and their careers?
- Do students from wealthier backgrounds score higher on standardized tests?
- Do students who receive free meals at school get higher grades compared to when they weren't receiving a free meal?
- Do students who attend charter schools score higher on standardized tests than students in public schools?
- Do students learn better in same-sex classrooms?
- How does giving each student access to an iPad or laptop affect their studies?
- What are the benefits and drawbacks of the Montessori Method ?
- Do children who attend preschool do better in school later on?
- What was the impact of the No Child Left Behind act?
- How does the US education system compare to education systems in other countries?
- What impact does mandatory physical education classes have on students' health?
- Which methods are most effective at reducing bullying in schools?
- Do homeschoolers who attend college do as well as students who attended traditional schools?
- Does offering tenure increase or decrease quality of teaching?
- How does college debt affect future life choices of students?
- Should graduate students be able to form unions?
- What are different ways to lower gun-related deaths in the US?
- How and why have divorce rates changed over time?
- Is affirmative action still necessary in education and/or the workplace?
- Should physician-assisted suicide be legal?
- How has stem cell research impacted the medical field?
- How can human trafficking be reduced in the United States/world?
- Should people be able to donate organs in exchange for money?
- Which types of juvenile punishment have proven most effective at preventing future crimes?
- Has the increase in US airport security made passengers safer?
- Analyze the immigration policies of certain countries and how they are similar and different from one another.
- Several states have legalized recreational marijuana. What positive and negative impacts have they experienced as a result?
- Do tariffs increase the number of domestic jobs?
- Which prison reforms have proven most effective?
- Should governments be able to censor certain information on the internet?
- Which methods/programs have been most effective at reducing teen pregnancy?
- What are the benefits and drawbacks of the Keto diet?
- How effective are different exercise regimes for losing weight and maintaining weight loss?
- How do the healthcare plans of various countries differ from each other?
- What are the most effective ways to treat depression ?
- What are the pros and cons of genetically modified foods?
- Which methods are most effective for improving memory?
- What can be done to lower healthcare costs in the US?
- What factors contributed to the current opioid crisis?
- Analyze the history and impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic .
- Are low-carbohydrate or low-fat diets more effective for weight loss?
- How much exercise should the average adult be getting each week?
- Which methods are most effective to get parents to vaccinate their children?
- What are the pros and cons of clean needle programs?
- How does stress affect the body?
- Discuss the history of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
- What were the causes and effects of the Salem Witch Trials?
- Who was responsible for the Iran-Contra situation?
- How has New Orleans and the government's response to natural disasters changed since Hurricane Katrina?
- What events led to the fall of the Roman Empire?
- What were the impacts of British rule in India ?
- Was the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki necessary?
- What were the successes and failures of the women's suffrage movement in the United States?
- What were the causes of the Civil War?
- How did Abraham Lincoln's assassination impact the country and reconstruction after the Civil War?
- Which factors contributed to the colonies winning the American Revolution?
- What caused Hitler's rise to power?
- Discuss how a specific invention impacted history.
- What led to Cleopatra's fall as ruler of Egypt?
- How has Japan changed and evolved over the centuries?
- What were the causes of the Rwandan genocide ?
- Why did Martin Luther decide to split with the Catholic Church?
- Analyze the history and impact of a well-known cult (Jonestown, Manson family, etc.)
- How did the sexual abuse scandal impact how people view the Catholic Church?
- How has the Catholic church's power changed over the past decades/centuries?
- What are the causes behind the rise in atheism/ agnosticism in the United States?
- What were the influences in Siddhartha's life resulted in him becoming the Buddha?
- How has media portrayal of Islam/Muslims changed since September 11th?
- How has the earth's climate changed in the past few decades?
- How has the use and elimination of DDT affected bird populations in the US?
- Analyze how the number and severity of natural disasters have increased in the past few decades.
- Analyze deforestation rates in a certain area or globally over a period of time.
- How have past oil spills changed regulations and cleanup methods?
- How has the Flint water crisis changed water regulation safety?
- What are the pros and cons of fracking?
- What impact has the Paris Climate Agreement had so far?
- What have NASA's biggest successes and failures been?
- How can we improve access to clean water around the world?
- Does ecotourism actually have a positive impact on the environment?
- Should the US rely on nuclear energy more?
- What can be done to save amphibian species currently at risk of extinction?
- What impact has climate change had on coral reefs?
- How are black holes created?
- Are teens who spend more time on social media more likely to suffer anxiety and/or depression?
- How will the loss of net neutrality affect internet users?
- Analyze the history and progress of self-driving vehicles.
- How has the use of drones changed surveillance and warfare methods?
- Has social media made people more or less connected?
- What progress has currently been made with artificial intelligence ?
- Do smartphones increase or decrease workplace productivity?
- What are the most effective ways to use technology in the classroom?
- How is Google search affecting our intelligence?
- When is the best age for a child to begin owning a smartphone?
- Has frequent texting reduced teen literacy rates?
How to Write a Great Research Paper
Even great research paper topics won't give you a great research paper if you don't hone your topic before and during the writing process. Follow these three tips to turn good research paper topics into great papers.
#1: Figure Out Your Thesis Early
Before you start writing a single word of your paper, you first need to know what your thesis will be. Your thesis is a statement that explains what you intend to prove/show in your paper. Every sentence in your research paper will relate back to your thesis, so you don't want to start writing without it!
As some examples, if you're writing a research paper on if students learn better in same-sex classrooms, your thesis might be "Research has shown that elementary-age students in same-sex classrooms score higher on standardized tests and report feeling more comfortable in the classroom."
If you're writing a paper on the causes of the Civil War, your thesis might be "While the dispute between the North and South over slavery is the most well-known cause of the Civil War, other key causes include differences in the economies of the North and South, states' rights, and territorial expansion."
#2: Back Every Statement Up With Research
Remember, this is a research paper you're writing, so you'll need to use lots of research to make your points. Every statement you give must be backed up with research, properly cited the way your teacher requested. You're allowed to include opinions of your own, but they must also be supported by the research you give.
#3: Do Your Research Before You Begin Writing
You don't want to start writing your research paper and then learn that there isn't enough research to back up the points you're making, or, even worse, that the research contradicts the points you're trying to make!
Get most of your research on your good research topics done before you begin writing. Then use the research you've collected to create a rough outline of what your paper will cover and the key points you're going to make. This will help keep your paper clear and organized, and it'll ensure you have enough research to produce a strong paper.
Are you also learning about dynamic equilibrium in your science class? We break this sometimes tricky concept down so it's easy to understand in our complete guide to dynamic equilibrium .
Thinking about becoming a nurse practitioner? Nurse practitioners have one of the fastest growing careers in the country, and we have all the information you need to know about what to expect from nurse practitioner school .
Want to know the fastest and easiest ways to convert between Fahrenheit and Celsius? We've got you covered! Check out our guide to the best ways to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit (or vice versa).
Need more help with this topic? Check out Tutorbase!
Our vetted tutor database includes a range of experienced educators who can help you polish an essay for English or explain how derivatives work for Calculus. You can use dozens of filters and search criteria to find the perfect person for your needs.
These recommendations are based solely on our knowledge and experience. If you purchase an item through one of our links, PrepScholar may receive a commission.
Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.
Student and Parent Forum
Our new student and parent forum, at ExpertHub.PrepScholar.com , allow you to interact with your peers and the PrepScholar staff. See how other students and parents are navigating high school, college, and the college admissions process. Ask questions; get answers.
Ask a Question Below
Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!
Improve With Our Famous Guides
- For All Students
The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 160+ SAT Points
How to Get a Perfect 1600, by a Perfect Scorer
Series: How to Get 800 on Each SAT Section:
Score 800 on SAT Math
Score 800 on SAT Reading
Score 800 on SAT Writing
Series: How to Get to 600 on Each SAT Section:
Score 600 on SAT Math
Score 600 on SAT Reading
Score 600 on SAT Writing
Free Complete Official SAT Practice Tests
What SAT Target Score Should You Be Aiming For?
15 Strategies to Improve Your SAT Essay
The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 4+ ACT Points
How to Get a Perfect 36 ACT, by a Perfect Scorer
Series: How to Get 36 on Each ACT Section:
36 on ACT English
36 on ACT Math
36 on ACT Reading
36 on ACT Science
Series: How to Get to 24 on Each ACT Section:
24 on ACT English
24 on ACT Math
24 on ACT Reading
24 on ACT Science
What ACT target score should you be aiming for?
ACT Vocabulary You Must Know
ACT Writing: 15 Tips to Raise Your Essay Score
How to Get Into Harvard and the Ivy League
How to Get a Perfect 4.0 GPA
How to Write an Amazing College Essay
What Exactly Are Colleges Looking For?
Is the ACT easier than the SAT? A Comprehensive Guide
Should you retake your SAT or ACT?
When should you take the SAT or ACT?
Get the latest articles and test prep tips!
Looking for Graduate School Test Prep?
Check out our top-rated graduate blogs here:
GRE Online Prep Blog
GMAT Online Prep Blog
TOEFL Online Prep Blog
Holly R. "I am absolutely overjoyed and cannot thank you enough for helping me!”
When you choose to publish with PLOS, your research makes an impact. Make your work accessible to all, without restrictions, and accelerate scientific discovery with options like preprints and published peer review that make your work more Open.
- PLOS Biology
- PLOS Climate
- PLOS Complex Systems
- PLOS Computational Biology
- PLOS Digital Health
- PLOS Genetics
- PLOS Global Public Health
- PLOS Medicine
- PLOS Mental Health
- PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
- PLOS Pathogens
- PLOS Sustainability and Transformation
- PLOS Collections
How to Write a Peer Review
When you write a peer review for a manuscript, what should you include in your comments? What should you leave out? And how should the review be formatted?
This guide provides quick tips for writing and organizing your reviewer report.
Use an outline for your reviewer report so it’s easy for the editors and author to follow. This will also help you keep your comments organized.
Think about structuring your review like an inverted pyramid. Put the most important information at the top, followed by details and examples in the center, and any additional points at the very bottom.
Here’s how your outline might look:
1. Summary of the research and your overall impression
In your own words, summarize what the manuscript claims to report. This shows the editor how you interpreted the manuscript and will highlight any major differences in perspective between you and the other reviewers. Give an overview of the manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses. Think about this as your “take-home” message for the editors. End this section with your recommended course of action.
2. Discussion of specific areas for improvement
It’s helpful to divide this section into two parts: one for major issues and one for minor issues. Within each section, you can talk about the biggest issues first or go systematically figure-by-figure or claim-by-claim. Number each item so that your points are easy to follow (this will also make it easier for the authors to respond to each point). Refer to specific lines, pages, sections, or figure and table numbers so the authors (and editors) know exactly what you’re talking about.
Major vs. minor issues
What’s the difference between a major and minor issue? Major issues should consist of the essential points the authors need to address before the manuscript can proceed. Make sure you focus on what is fundamental for the current study . In other words, it’s not helpful to recommend additional work that would be considered the “next step” in the study. Minor issues are still important but typically will not affect the overall conclusions of the manuscript. Here are some examples of what would might go in the “minor” category:
- Missing references (but depending on what is missing, this could also be a major issue)
- Technical clarifications (e.g., the authors should clarify how a reagent works)
- Data presentation (e.g., the authors should present p-values differently)
- Typos, spelling, grammar, and phrasing issues
3. Any other points
Confidential comments for the editors.
Some journals have a space for reviewers to enter confidential comments about the manuscript. Use this space to mention concerns about the submission that you’d want the editors to consider before sharing your feedback with the authors, such as concerns about ethical guidelines or language quality. Any serious issues should be raised directly and immediately with the journal as well.
This section is also where you will disclose any potentially competing interests, and mention whether you’re willing to look at a revised version of the manuscript.
Do not use this space to critique the manuscript, since comments entered here will not be passed along to the authors. If you’re not sure what should go in the confidential comments, read the reviewer instructions or check with the journal first before submitting your review. If you are reviewing for a journal that does not offer a space for confidential comments, consider writing to the editorial office directly with your concerns.
Get this outline in a template
Giving feedback is hard. Giving effective feedback can be even more challenging. Remember that your ultimate goal is to discuss what the authors would need to do in order to qualify for publication. The point is not to nitpick every piece of the manuscript. Your focus should be on providing constructive and critical feedback that the authors can use to improve their study.
If you’ve ever had your own work reviewed, you already know that it’s not always easy to receive feedback. Follow the golden rule: Write the type of review you’d want to receive if you were the author. Even if you decide not to identify yourself in the review, you should write comments that you would be comfortable signing your name to.
In your comments, use phrases like “ the authors’ discussion of X” instead of “ your discussion of X .” This will depersonalize the feedback and keep the focus on the manuscript instead of the authors.
General guidelines for effective feedback
- Justify your recommendation with concrete evidence and specific examples.
- Be specific so the authors know what they need to do to improve.
- Be thorough. This might be the only time you read the manuscript.
- Be professional and respectful. The authors will be reading these comments too.
- Remember to say what you liked about the manuscript!
- Recommend additional experiments or unnecessary elements that are out of scope for the study or for the journal criteria.
- Tell the authors exactly how to revise their manuscript—you don’t need to do their work for them.
- Use the review to promote your own research or hypotheses.
- Focus on typos and grammar. If the manuscript needs significant editing for language and writing quality, just mention this in your comments.
- Submit your review without proofreading it and checking everything one more time.
Before and After: Sample Reviewer Comments
Keeping in mind the guidelines above, how do you put your thoughts into words? Here are some sample “before” and “after” reviewer comments
“The authors appear to have no idea what they are talking about. I don’t think they have read any of the literature on this topic.”
“The study fails to address how the findings relate to previous research in this area. The authors should rewrite their Introduction and Discussion to reference the related literature, especially recently published work such as Darwin et al.”
“The writing is so bad, it is practically unreadable. I could barely bring myself to finish it.”
“While the study appears to be sound, the language is unclear, making it difficult to follow. I advise the authors work with a writing coach or copyeditor to improve the flow and readability of the text.”
“It’s obvious that this type of experiment should have been included. I have no idea why the authors didn’t use it. This is a big mistake.”
“The authors are off to a good start, however, this study requires additional experiments, particularly [type of experiment]. Alternatively, the authors should include more information that clarifies and justifies their choice of methods.”
Suggested Language for Tricky Situations
You might find yourself in a situation where you’re not sure how to explain the problem or provide feedback in a constructive and respectful way. Here is some suggested language for common issues you might experience.
What you think : The manuscript is fatally flawed. What you could say: “The study does not appear to be sound” or “the authors have missed something crucial”.
What you think : You don’t completely understand the manuscript. What you could say : “The authors should clarify the following sections to avoid confusion…”
What you think : The technical details don’t make sense. What you could say : “The technical details should be expanded and clarified to ensure that readers understand exactly what the researchers studied.”
What you think: The writing is terrible. What you could say : “The authors should revise the language to improve readability.”
What you think : The authors have over-interpreted the findings. What you could say : “The authors aim to demonstrate [XYZ], however, the data does not fully support this conclusion. Specifically…”
What does a good review look like?
Check out the peer review examples at F1000 Research to see how other reviewers write up their reports and give constructive feedback to authors.
Time to Submit the Review!
Be sure you turn in your report on time. Need an extension? Tell the journal so that they know what to expect. If you need a lot of extra time, the journal might need to contact other reviewers or notify the author about the delay.
Tip: Building a relationship with an editor
You’ll be more likely to be asked to review again if you provide high-quality feedback and if you turn in the review on time. Especially if it’s your first review for a journal, it’s important to show that you are reliable. Prove yourself once and you’ll get asked to review again!
- Getting started as a reviewer
- Responding to an invitation
- Reading a manuscript
- Writing a peer review
The contents of the Peer Review Center are also available as a live, interactive training session, complete with slides, talking points, and activities. …
The contents of the Writing Center are also available as a live, interactive training session, complete with slides, talking points, and activities. …
There’s a lot to consider when deciding where to submit your work. Learn how to choose a journal that will help your study reach its audience, while reflecting your values as a researcher…
Have a language expert improve your writing
Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.
- Knowledge Base
- What Is Peer Review? | Types & Examples
What Is Peer Review? | Types & Examples
Published on December 17, 2021 by Tegan George . Revised on June 22, 2023.
Peer review, sometimes referred to as refereeing , is the process of evaluating submissions to an academic journal. Using strict criteria, a panel of reviewers in the same subject area decides whether to accept each submission for publication.
Peer-reviewed articles are considered a highly credible source due to the stringent process they go through before publication.
There are various types of peer review. The main difference between them is to what extent the authors, reviewers, and editors know each other’s identities. The most common types are:
- Single-blind review
- Double-blind review
- Triple-blind review
Relatedly, peer assessment is a process where your peers provide you with feedback on something you’ve written, based on a set of criteria or benchmarks from an instructor. They then give constructive feedback, compliments, or guidance to help you improve your draft.
Table of contents
What is the purpose of peer review, types of peer review, the peer review process, providing feedback to your peers, peer review example, advantages of peer review, criticisms of peer review, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about peer reviews.
Many academic fields use peer review, largely to determine whether a manuscript is suitable for publication. Peer review enhances the credibility of the manuscript. For this reason, academic journals are among the most credible sources you can refer to.
However, peer review is also common in non-academic settings. The United Nations, the European Union, and many individual nations use peer review to evaluate grant applications. It is also widely used in medical and health-related fields as a teaching or quality-of-care measure.
Peer assessment is often used in the classroom as a pedagogical tool. Both receiving feedback and providing it are thought to enhance the learning process, helping students think critically and collaboratively.
Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.
Depending on the journal, there are several types of peer review.
Single-blind peer review
The most common type of peer review is single-blind (or single anonymized) review . Here, the names of the reviewers are not known by the author.
While this gives the reviewers the ability to give feedback without the possibility of interference from the author, there has been substantial criticism of this method in the last few years. Many argue that single-blind reviewing can lead to poaching or intellectual theft or that anonymized comments cause reviewers to be too harsh.
Double-blind peer review
In double-blind (or double anonymized) review , both the author and the reviewers are anonymous.
Arguments for double-blind review highlight that this mitigates any risk of prejudice on the side of the reviewer, while protecting the nature of the process. In theory, it also leads to manuscripts being published on merit rather than on the reputation of the author.
Triple-blind peer review
While triple-blind (or triple anonymized) review —where the identities of the author, reviewers, and editors are all anonymized—does exist, it is difficult to carry out in practice.
Proponents of adopting triple-blind review for journal submissions argue that it minimizes potential conflicts of interest and biases. However, ensuring anonymity is logistically challenging, and current editing software is not always able to fully anonymize everyone involved in the process.
In collaborative review , authors and reviewers interact with each other directly throughout the process. However, the identity of the reviewer is not known to the author. This gives all parties the opportunity to resolve any inconsistencies or contradictions in real time, and provides them a rich forum for discussion. It can mitigate the need for multiple rounds of editing and minimize back-and-forth.
Collaborative review can be time- and resource-intensive for the journal, however. For these collaborations to occur, there has to be a set system in place, often a technological platform, with staff monitoring and fixing any bugs or glitches.
Lastly, in open review , all parties know each other’s identities throughout the process. Often, open review can also include feedback from a larger audience, such as an online forum, or reviewer feedback included as part of the final published product.
While many argue that greater transparency prevents plagiarism or unnecessary harshness, there is also concern about the quality of future scholarship if reviewers feel they have to censor their comments.
In general, the peer review process includes the following steps:
- First, the author submits the manuscript to the editor.
- Reject the manuscript and send it back to the author, or
- Send it onward to the selected peer reviewer(s)
- Next, the peer review process occurs. The reviewer provides feedback, addressing any major or minor issues with the manuscript, and gives their advice regarding what edits should be made.
- Lastly, the edited manuscript is sent back to the author. They input the edits and resubmit it to the editor for publication.
In an effort to be transparent, many journals are now disclosing who reviewed each article in the published product. There are also increasing opportunities for collaboration and feedback, with some journals allowing open communication between reviewers and authors.
It can seem daunting at first to conduct a peer review or peer assessment. If you’re not sure where to start, there are several best practices you can use.
Summarize the argument in your own words
Summarizing the main argument helps the author see how their argument is interpreted by readers, and gives you a jumping-off point for providing feedback. If you’re having trouble doing this, it’s a sign that the argument needs to be clearer, more concise, or worded differently.
If the author sees that you’ve interpreted their argument differently than they intended, they have an opportunity to address any misunderstandings when they get the manuscript back.
Separate your feedback into major and minor issues
It can be challenging to keep feedback organized. One strategy is to start out with any major issues and then flow into the more minor points. It’s often helpful to keep your feedback in a numbered list, so the author has concrete points to refer back to.
Major issues typically consist of any problems with the style, flow, or key points of the manuscript. Minor issues include spelling errors, citation errors, or other smaller, easy-to-apply feedback.
Tip: Try not to focus too much on the minor issues. If the manuscript has a lot of typos, consider making a note that the author should address spelling and grammar issues, rather than going through and fixing each one.
The best feedback you can provide is anything that helps them strengthen their argument or resolve major stylistic issues.
Give the type of feedback that you would like to receive
No one likes being criticized, and it can be difficult to give honest feedback without sounding overly harsh or critical. One strategy you can use here is the “compliment sandwich,” where you “sandwich” your constructive criticism between two compliments.
Be sure you are giving concrete, actionable feedback that will help the author submit a successful final draft. While you shouldn’t tell them exactly what they should do, your feedback should help them resolve any issues they may have overlooked.
As a rule of thumb, your feedback should be:
- Easy to understand
Below is a brief annotated research example. You can view examples of peer feedback by hovering over the highlighted sections.
Influence of phone use on sleep
Studies show that teens from the US are getting less sleep than they were a decade ago (Johnson, 2019) . On average, teens only slept for 6 hours a night in 2021, compared to 8 hours a night in 2011. Johnson mentions several potential causes, such as increased anxiety, changed diets, and increased phone use.
The current study focuses on the effect phone use before bedtime has on the number of hours of sleep teens are getting.
For this study, a sample of 300 teens was recruited using social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. The first week, all teens were allowed to use their phone the way they normally would, in order to obtain a baseline.
The sample was then divided into 3 groups:
- Group 1 was not allowed to use their phone before bedtime.
- Group 2 used their phone for 1 hour before bedtime.
- Group 3 used their phone for 3 hours before bedtime.
All participants were asked to go to sleep around 10 p.m. to control for variation in bedtime . In the morning, their Fitbit showed the number of hours they’d slept. They kept track of these numbers themselves for 1 week.
Two independent t tests were used in order to compare Group 1 and Group 2, and Group 1 and Group 3. The first t test showed no significant difference ( p > .05) between the number of hours for Group 1 ( M = 7.8, SD = 0.6) and Group 2 ( M = 7.0, SD = 0.8). The second t test showed a significant difference ( p < .01) between the average difference for Group 1 ( M = 7.8, SD = 0.6) and Group 3 ( M = 6.1, SD = 1.5).
This shows that teens sleep fewer hours a night if they use their phone for over an hour before bedtime, compared to teens who use their phone for 0 to 1 hours.
Peer review is an established and hallowed process in academia, dating back hundreds of years. It provides various fields of study with metrics, expectations, and guidance to ensure published work is consistent with predetermined standards.
- Protects the quality of published research
Peer review can stop obviously problematic, falsified, or otherwise untrustworthy research from being published. Any content that raises red flags for reviewers can be closely examined in the review stage, preventing plagiarized or duplicated research from being published.
- Gives you access to feedback from experts in your field
Peer review represents an excellent opportunity to get feedback from renowned experts in your field and to improve your writing through their feedback and guidance. Experts with knowledge about your subject matter can give you feedback on both style and content, and they may also suggest avenues for further research that you hadn’t yet considered.
- Helps you identify any weaknesses in your argument
Peer review acts as a first defense, helping you ensure your argument is clear and that there are no gaps, vague terms, or unanswered questions for readers who weren’t involved in the research process. This way, you’ll end up with a more robust, more cohesive article.
While peer review is a widely accepted metric for credibility, it’s not without its drawbacks.
- Reviewer bias
The more transparent double-blind system is not yet very common, which can lead to bias in reviewing. A common criticism is that an excellent paper by a new researcher may be declined, while an objectively lower-quality submission by an established researcher would be accepted.
- Delays in publication
The thoroughness of the peer review process can lead to significant delays in publishing time. Research that was current at the time of submission may not be as current by the time it’s published. There is also high risk of publication bias , where journals are more likely to publish studies with positive findings than studies with negative findings.
- Risk of human error
By its very nature, peer review carries a risk of human error. In particular, falsification often cannot be detected, given that reviewers would have to replicate entire experiments to ensure the validity of results.
If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.
- Normal distribution
- Measures of central tendency
- Chi square tests
- Confidence interval
- Quartiles & Quantiles
- Cluster sampling
- Stratified sampling
- Thematic analysis
- Discourse analysis
- Cohort study
- Implicit bias
- Cognitive bias
- Conformity bias
- Hawthorne effect
- Availability heuristic
- Attrition bias
- Social desirability bias
Peer review is a process of evaluating submissions to an academic journal. Utilizing rigorous criteria, a panel of reviewers in the same subject area decide whether to accept each submission for publication. For this reason, academic journals are often considered among the most credible sources you can use in a research project– provided that the journal itself is trustworthy and well-regarded.
In general, the peer review process follows the following steps:
- Reject the manuscript and send it back to author, or
- Send it onward to the selected peer reviewer(s)
- Next, the peer review process occurs. The reviewer provides feedback, addressing any major or minor issues with the manuscript, and gives their advice regarding what edits should be made.
- Lastly, the edited manuscript is sent back to the author. They input the edits, and resubmit it to the editor for publication.
Peer review can stop obviously problematic, falsified, or otherwise untrustworthy research from being published. It also represents an excellent opportunity to get feedback from renowned experts in your field. It acts as a first defense, helping you ensure your argument is clear and that there are no gaps, vague terms, or unanswered questions for readers who weren’t involved in the research process.
Peer-reviewed articles are considered a highly credible source due to this stringent process they go through before publication.
Many academic fields use peer review , largely to determine whether a manuscript is suitable for publication. Peer review enhances the credibility of the published manuscript.
However, peer review is also common in non-academic settings. The United Nations, the European Union, and many individual nations use peer review to evaluate grant applications. It is also widely used in medical and health-related fields as a teaching or quality-of-care measure.
A credible source should pass the CRAAP test and follow these guidelines:
- The information should be up to date and current.
- The author and publication should be a trusted authority on the subject you are researching.
- The sources the author cited should be easy to find, clear, and unbiased.
- For a web source, the URL and layout should signify that it is trustworthy.
Cite this Scribbr article
If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.
George, T. (2023, June 22). What Is Peer Review? | Types & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved January 2, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/methodology/peer-review/
Is this article helpful?
Other students also liked, what are credible sources & how to spot them | examples, ethical considerations in research | types & examples, applying the craap test & evaluating sources, what is your plagiarism score.
Peer Review – Best Practices
“Peer review is broken. But let’s do it as effectively and as conscientiously as possible” — Rosy Hosking, CommLab
“ A thoughtful, well-presented evaluation of a manuscript, with tangible suggestions for improvement and a recommendation that is supported by the comments, is the most valuable contribution that you can make as a reviewer, and such a review is greatly appreciated by both the authors of the manuscript and the editors of the journal. ” — ACS Reviewer Lab
Criteria for success
A successful peer review:
- Contains a brief summary of the entire manuscript. Show the editors and authors what you think the main claims of the paper are, and your assessment of its impact on the field. What did the authors try to show and what did they try to claim?
- Clearly directs the editor on the path forward. Should this paper be accepted, rejected, or revised?
- Identifies any major (internal inconsistencies, missing data, etc.) concerns, and clearly locates them within the document. Why do you think that the direction specified is correct? What were the issues you identified that led you to that decision?
- Lists (if appropriate — i.e. if you are suggesting revision or acceptance) minor concerns to help the authors make the paper watertight (typographical errors, grammatical errors, missing references, unclear explanations of methodology, etc.).
- Explain how the arguments can be better defended through analysis, experiments, etc.
- Is reasonable within the original manuscript scope ; does not suggest modifications that would require excessive time or expense, or that could instead be addressed by adjusting the manuscript’s claims .
A typical peer review is 1-2 pages long. You can divide your content roughly as follows:
Identify your purpose
The purpose of your pre-publication peer review is two-fold:
- Scientific integrity (which can be handled with editorial office assistance)
- Quality of data collection methods and data analysis
- Veracity of conclusions presented in the manuscript
- Determine match between the proposed submission and the journal scope (subject matter and potential impact). For example, a paper that holds significance only for a particular subfield of chemical engineering is not appropriate for a broad multidisciplinary journal. Determining match is usually done in partnership with the editor, who can answer questions of journal scope.
Analyze your audience
The audience for your peer review work is unusual compared to most other kinds of communication you will undertake as a scientist. Your primary audience is the journal editor, who will use your feedback to make a decision to accept or reject the manuscript. Your secondary audience is the author, who will use your suggestions to make improvements to the manuscript. Typically, you will be known to the journal editors, but anonymous to the authors of the manuscript. For this reason, it is important that you balance your review between these two parties.
The editors are most interested in hearing your critical feedback on the science that is presented, and whether there are any claims that need to be adjusted. The editors need to know:
- Your areas of expertise within the manuscript
- The paper’s significance to your particular field
To help you, most journals willhave guidelines for reviewers to follow, which can be found on the journal’s website (e.g., Cell Guidelines ).
The authors are interested in:
- Understanding what aspects of their logic are not easily understood
- Other layers of experimentation or discussion that would be necessary to support claims
- Any additional information they would need to convince you in their arguments
Format Your Document in a Standard Way
Peer review feedback is most easily digested and understood by both editors and authors when it arrives in a clear, logical format. Most commonly the format is (1) Summary, (2) Decision, (3) Major Concerns, and (4) Minor Concerns (see also Structure Diagram above).
There is also often a multiple choice form to “rate” the paper on a number of criteria. This numerical scoring guide may be used by editors to weigh the manuscript against other submissions; think of it mostly as a checklist of topics to cover in your review.
The summary grounds the remainder of your review. You need to demonstrate that you have read and understood the manuscript, which helps the authors understand what other readers are understanding to be the manuscript’s main claims. This is also an opportunity to demonstrate your own expertise and critical thinking, which makes a positive impression on the editors who often may be important people in your field.
It is helpful to use the following guidelines:
- Start with a one-sentence description of the paper’s main point, followed by several sentences summarizing specific important findings that lead to the paper’s logical conclusion.
- Then, highlight the significance of the important findings that were shown in the paper.
- Conclude with the reviewer’s overall opinion of what the manuscript does and does not do well.
Your decision must be clearly stated to aid the interpretation of the rest of your comments (see Criteria for Success). Do this either as part of the concluding sentence in the summary paragraph, or as a separate sentence after the summary. In general, you try to categorize within the following framework:
- Accept with no revisions
- Accept with minor revisions
- Accept with major revisions
Some journals will have specific rules or different wording, so make sure you understand what your options are.
Most reviews also contain the option to provide confidential comments to the editor, which can be used to provide the editor with more detail on the decision. In extreme cases, this can also be where concerns about plagiarism, data manipulation, or other ethical issues can be raised.
The Decision area is also where you can state which aspects of complex manuscripts you feel you have the expertise to comment on.
Major Concerns (where relevant)
Depending on the journal that you are reviewing for, there might be criteria for significance, novelty, industrial relevance, or other field-specific criteria that need to be accounted for in your major concerns. Major concerns, if they are serious, typically lead to decisions that are either “reject” or “accept with major revisions.”
Major concerns include…
- issues with the arguments presented in the paper that are not internally consistent,
- or present arguments that go against significant understanding in the field, without the necessary data to back it up .
- a lack of key experimental or computational data that are vital to justify the claims made in the paper.
- Examples: a study that reports the identity of an unexpected peak in a GC-MS spectrum without accounting for common interferences, or claims pertaining to human health when all the data presented is in a model organism or in vitro .
One of the most important aspects of providing a review with major concerns is your ability to cite resolutions. For example…
- If you think that someone’s argument is going against the laws of thermodynamics, what data would they need to show you to convince you otherwise?
- What types of new statistical analysis would you need to see to believe the claims being made about the clinical trials presented in this work?
- Are there additional control experiments that are needed to show that this catalyst is actually promoting the reaction along the pathway suggested?
Minor Concerns (optional)
Minor concerns are primarily issues that are raised that would improve the clarity of the message, but don’t impact the logic of the argument. Most commonly these are…
- Grammatical errors within the manuscript
- Typographical errors
- Missing references
- Insufficient background or methods information (e.g., an introduction section with only five references)
- Insufficient or possibly extraneous detail
- Unclear or poorly worded explanations (e.g., a paragraph in the discussion section that seems to contradict other parts of the paper)
- Possible options for improving the readability of any graphics (e.g., incorrect labels on a figure)
While minor concerns are not always present in the case of reviews with many major concerns, they are almost always included in the case of manuscripts where the decision is an accept or accept with minor revisions.
Offer revisions that are reasonable and in scope
Think about the feasibility of the experiments you suggest to address your concerns. Are you suggesting 3 years’ more work that could form the basis for a whole other publication? If you are suggesting vast amounts of animal work or sequencing, then are the experiments going to be prohibitively expensive? If the paper would stand without this next layer of experimentation, then think seriously about the real value of these additional experiments. One of the major issues with scientific publishing is the length of time taken to get to the finish line. Don’t muddy the water for fellow authors unnecessarily!
As an alternative to more experiments, does the author need to adjust their claims to fit the extent of their evidence rather than the other way round? If they did that, would this still be a good paper for the journal you are reviewing for?
Structure your comments in a way that makes sense to the audience
- Separate each of your concerns clearly with line breaks (or numbering) and organize them in the order they appear in the manuscript.
- Quote directly from the text and bold or italicize relevant phrases to illustrate your points
- Include page and line/paragraph numbers for easy reference.
- Keep your comments as brief as possible by simply stating the issue and your suggestion for fixing it in a few sentences or less.
Offer feedback that is constructive and professional
Be unbiased and professional.
Although the identities of the authors are sometimes kept anonymous during the review process (this is rare in chemical and biological research), research communities are typically small and you may try to “guess” who the author is based on the methodology used or the writing style. Regardless, it is important to remain unbiased and professional in your review. Do not assume anything about the paper based on your perception of, for example, the author’s status or the impact their results may have on your own research. If you feel that this might be an issue for you, you must inform the editor that there is a conflict of interest and you should not review this manuscript.
Be polite and diplomatic .
Receiving critical feedback, even when constructive, can be difficult and possibly emotional for the authors. Since you are not anonymous to the editors, being unnecessarily harsh in your feedback will reflect badly on you in the end. Use similar language to what you would use when discussing research at a conference, or when talking with your advisor in a meeting. Manuscript peer review is a good way to practice these “soft” skills which are important yet often neglected in the science community.
Additional resources about effective peer reviewing
- American Chemical Society Reviewer Lab
- Nature.com offers a peer review training course for purchase:
This article was written by Mike Orella (MIT Chem E Comm Lab); edited by Mica Smith (MIT Chem E Comm Lab) and Rosy Hosking (Broad Comm Lab)
An official website of the United States government
The .gov means it’s official. Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.
The site is secure. The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.
- Account settings
- Advanced Search
- Journal List
- BMJ Health Care Inform
- v.28(1); 2021
A step-by-step guide to peer review: a template for patients and novice reviewers
1 General Medicine and Primary Care, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
2 Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
3 Harvard Medical School
While relatively novel, patient peer review has the potential to change the healthcare publishing paradigm. It can do this by helping researchers enlarge the pool of people who are welcome to read, understand and participate in healthcare research. Academic journals who are early adopters of patient peer review have already committed to placing a priority on using person-centred language in publicly available abstracts and focusing on translational and practical research.
A wide body of literature has shown that including people with lived experiences in a truly meaningful way can improve the quality and efficiency of health research. Traditionally considered only as ‘subjects’ of research, over the last 10–15 years, patients and care partners have increasingly been invited to contribute to the design and conduct of studies. Established institutions are increasingly recognising the distinctive expertise patients possess—many patients have acquired deep insights about their conditions, symptoms, medical treatments and quality of healthcare delivery. Among some funders, including the views of patients is now a requirement to ensure research proposals are meaningful to persons with the lived experience of illness. Further illustrating these developments, patients are now involved in reviewing and making recommendations as part of funding institutions, setting research agendas and priorities, being funded for and leading their own research and leading or coauthoring scholarly publications, and are now participating in the peer review process for academic journals. 1–5 Patients offer an outsider’s perspective within mainstream healthcare: they have fewer institutional, professional or social allegiances and conflicts of interest—factors recognised as compromising the quality of research. Patient involvement is essential to move away from rhetorical commitments to embrace a truly patient-centred healthcare ecosystem where everyone has a place at the table.
As people with lived health experiences climb a ladder of engagement in patient–researcher partnerships, they may be asked to act as peer reviewers of academic manuscripts. However, many of these individuals do not hold professional training in medicine, healthcare or science and have never encountered the peer review process. Little guidance exists for patients and care partners tasked with reviewing and providing input on manuscripts in search of publication.
In conversation, however, even experienced researchers confess that learning how to peer review is part of a hidden curriculum in academia—a skill outlined by no formal means but rather learnt by mimicry. 6 As such, as they learn the process, novices may pick up bad habits. In the case of peer review, learning is the result of reading large numbers of academic papers, occasional conversations with mentors or commonly “trial by fire” experienced via reviewer comments to their own submissions. Patient reviewers are rarely exposed to these experiences and can be at a loss for where to begin. As a result, some may forgo opportunities to provide valuable and highly insightful feedback on research publications. Although some journals are highly specific about how reviewers should structure their feedback, many publications—including top-tier medical journals—assume that all reviewers will know how to construct responses. Only a few forward-thinking journals actively seeking peer review from people with lived health experiences currently point to review tips designed for experienced professionals. 7
As people with lived health experiences are increasingly invited to participate in peer review, it is essential that they be supported in this process. The peer review template for patients and novice reviewers ( table 1 ) is a series of steps designed to create a workflow for the main components of peer review. A structured workflow can help a reviewer organise their thoughts and create space to engage in critical thinking. The template is a starting point for anyone new to peer review, and it should be modified, adapted and built on for individual preferences and unique journal requirements. Peer reviews are commonly submitted via website portals, which vary widely in design and functionality; as such, reviewers are encouraged to decide how to best use the template on a case-by-case basis. Journals may require reviewers to copy and paste responses from the template into a journal website or upload a clean copy of the template as an attachment. Note: If uploading the review as an attachment, remember to remove the template examples and writing prompts .
Peer review template for patients and other novice reviewers
It is important to point out that patient reviewers are not alone in facing challenges and a steep learning curve in performing peer review. Many health research agendas and, as a result, publications straddle disciplines, requiring peer reviewers with complementary expertise and training. Some experts may be highly equipped to critique particular aspects of research papers while unsuited to comment on other parts. Curiously, however, it is seldom a requirement that invited peer reviewers admit their own limitations to comment on different dimensions of papers. Relatedly, while we do not suggest that all patient peer reviewers will be equipped to critique every aspect of submitted manuscripts—though some may be fully competent to do so—we suggest that candour about limitations of expertise would also benefit the broader research community.
As novice reviewers gain experience, they may find themselves solicited for a growing number of reviews, much like their more experienced counterparts or mentors. 8 Serving as a patient or care partner reviewer can be a rewarding form of advocacy and will be crucial to harnessing the feedback and expertise of persons with lived health experiences. As we move into a future where online searches for information are a ubiquitous first step in searching for answers to health-related questions, patient and novice reviewers may become the much-needed link between academia and the lay public.
LS thanks the experienced and novice reviewers who encouraged her to publish this template.
Twitter: @TheLizArmy, @@crblease
Contributors: Both authors contributed substantially to the manuscript. LS conceived the idea and design and drafted the text. CB refined the idea and critically revised the text.
Funding: The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests: The authors have read and understood the BMJ policy on declaration of interests and declare the following interests: LS is a member of the BMJ Patient Advisory Panel, serves as a BMJ patient reviewer and is an ad hoc patient reviewer for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute; CB is a Keane OpenNotes scholar; both LS and CB work on OpenNotes, a philanthropically funded research initiative focused on improving transparency in healthcare.
Provenance and peer review: Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Patient consent for publication.
How to Write a Peer Review: 12 things you need to know
Learning how to peer review is no small feat. You’re responsible for protecting the public from false findings and research flaws, while at the same time helping to uncover legitimate breakthroughs. You’re also asked to constructively critique the research of your peers, some of which has taken blood, sweat, tears and years to put together.
Despite this, peer review doesn’t need to be hard or nerve-wracking–or make you feel like you’re doomed to fail.
We’ve put together 12 tips to help with peer review , and you can learn the entire process with our free peer review training course, the Web of Science Academy . This on-demand, practical course and comes with one-to-one support with your own mentor. You’ll have exclusive access to our peer review template, plenty of expert review examples to learn from, and by the end of it, you’ll not only be a certified reviewer, we’ll help put you in front of editors in your field.
The peer review process
Journal peer review is a critical tool for ensuring the quality and integrity of the research literature. It is the process by which researchers use their expert knowledge of a topic to assess an article for its accuracy and rigor, and to help make sure it builds on and adds to the current literature.
It’s actually a very structured process; it can be learned and improved the more you do it, and you’ll become faster and more confident as time goes on. Soon enough, you’ll even start benefiting from the process yourself.
Peer review not only helps to maintain the quality and integrity of literature in your field, it’s key to your own development as a researcher. It’s a great way to keep abreast of current research, impress editors at elite journals, and hone your critical analysis skills. It teaches you how to review a manuscript , spot common flaws in research papers , and improve your own chances of being a successful published author .
12-step guide to writing a peer review
To get the most out of the peer review process, you’ll want to keep some best practice tips and techniques in mind from the start. This will help you write a review around two to three pages (four maximum) in length.
We asked an expert panel of researchers what steps they take to ensure a thorough and robust review. We then compiled their advice into 12 easy steps with link to blog posts for further information:
1) Make sure you have the right expertise. Check out our post, Are you the right reviewer? for our checklist to assess whether you should take on a certain peer review request.
2) Visit the journal web page to learn their reviewer-specific instructions. Check the manuscript fits in the journal format and the references are standardised (if the editor has not already done so).
3) Skim the paper very quickly to get a general sense of the article. Underline key words and arguments, and summarise key points. This will help you quickly “tune in” to the paper during the next read.
4) Sit in a quiet place and read the manuscript critically. Make sure you have the tables, figures and references visible. Ask yourself key questions, including: Does it have a relevant title and valuable research question? Are key papers referenced? What’s the author’s motivation for the study and the idea behind it? Are the data and tools suitable and correct? What’s new about it? Why does that matter? Are there other considerations? Find out more in our 12-step guide to critically reviewing a manuscript .
5) Take notes about the major, moderate and minor revisions that need to be made . You need to make sure you can put the paper down and come back to it with fresh eyes later on. Note-taking is essential for this.
6) Are there any methodological concerns or common research errors? Check out our guide for common research flaws to watch out for .
7) Create a list of things to check. For example, does the referenced study actually show what is claimed in the paper?
8) Assess language and grammar, and make sure it’s a right ‘fit’ for the journal. Does the paper flow? Does it have connectivity? Does it have clarity? Are the words and structure concise and effective?
9) Is it new research? Check previous publications of the authors and of other authors in the field to be sure that the results were not published before.
10) Summarise your notes for the editor. This can include overview, contribution, strengths & weaknesses, and acceptability. You can also include the manuscript’s contribution/context for the authors (really just to clarify whether you view it similarly, or not), then prioritise and collate the major revisions and minor/specific revisions into feedback. Try to compile this in a logical way, grouping similar things under a common heading where possible, and numbering them for ease of reference.
11) Give specific recommendations to the authors for changes. What do you want them to work on? in the manuscript that the authors can do.
12) Give your recommendation to the editor.
We hope these 12 steps help get you on your way for your first peer review, or improving the structure of your current reviews. And remember, if you’d like to master the skills involved in peer review and get access to our Peer Review Template, sign up for our Web of Science Academy .
Our expert panel of reviewers include: Ana Marie Florea (Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf), James Cotter (University of Otago), and Robert Faff (University of Queensland). These reviewers are all recipients of the Global Peer Review Awards powered by Publons. They also and boast hundreds of pre-publication peer reviews for more than 100 different journals and sit on numerous editorial boards.
Discovering new insights from early-career scholarship through the addition of >172m linked cited references from proquest dissertations and theses on the web of science.