Guide to Review a Manuscript

Guide to Review a Manuscript

Request from the Editor-In-Chief

  > As a reviewer, you will get an email from the Editor-In-Chief of the Bangladesh Journal of Pharmacology to review a manuscript

> After reading the title and abstract of the manuscript, think yourself whether you accept the invitation or reject it that depends on

☐  Are you the right person to review on this topic?

☐  Do you have sufficient time to do it?

☐  Either accept the invitation or reject it

>  If agree or disagree with to review, I should reply promptly to prevent the delay. This will be helpful to the authors who wrote the manuscript.       

> No wastage of time. Just click a link to inform the Editor-In-Chief that you agree to review the manuscript. An abstract is attached. It is quite interesting. I have to declare no potential Conflict of Interest to review the manuscript.

Bangladesh Journal of Pharmacology will ask you to address specific questions in your review using a review report. Often you can't see these until you log in to submit your review. So when you agree to the work, it's worth checking for the journal-specific guidelines and requirements.

> Download the files and keep those in a folder. A dummy Article in PDF form will be supplied to the reviewer. The pdf file does not have the email address of the corresponding author. You may read using the computer or take a print to read which one is comfortable for skim-reading. Highlighting the text (yellow color) while reading using the computer or keeping a pen and paper handy.

How to start review?

  > Check the journal guidelines and decision options from the Journal website

> Read the manuscript when you are in a good mood

> Be responsible and complete it in time

> Take a lot of notes while reading the manuscript

> Open-minded to new ideas; don’t try to take the author to what you want


To get an overall impression of the manuscript

The first read-through or skim-read will help you to get an initial impression of the manuscript whether your eventual recommendation will be to accept or reject the manuscript.

  > What is the main question addressed by the research? Is it relevant and interesting?

> What does it add to the subject area compared with other published material?

> Is the paper well written? Is the text clear and easy to read?

> Are the conclusions consistent with the evidence and arguments presented? Do they address the main question posed?

> If the author disagrees significantly with the current academic consensus, do they have a substantial case? If not, what would be required to make their case credible?

> If the paper includes tables or figures, what do they add to the paper? Do they aid understanding or are they superfluous?

Spotting Major Flaws

While reading the whole file, making the right choice of what to read first can save time by flagging major problems early on.

  > Examples of possibly major flaws include:
  • Drawing a conclusion that is contradicted by the author's own statistical or qualitative evidence
  • The use of a discredited method
  • Ignoring a process that is known to have a strong influence on the area under study

First, check whether the methodology is sound or not. If not, this is likely to be a major flaw.

  >  You might examine:
  • The sampling in analytical papers
  • The sufficient use of control experiments
  • The precision of process data
  • The regularity of sampling in time-dependent studies
  • The validity of questions, the use of a detailed methodology, and the data analysis being done systematically (in qualitative research)
  • Qualitative research extends beyond the author's opinions, with sufficient descriptive elements and appropriate quotes from interviews or focus groups

Major Flaws in Information

If the methodology is less of an issue, it's often a good idea to look at the data tables, figures, or images first. If there are critical flaws in this, it's very likely the manuscript will need to be rejected. Such issues include:

  • Insufficient data
  • Statistically non-significant variations
  • Unclear data tables
  • Contradictory data that either are not self-consistent or disagree with the conclusions
  • Confirmatory data that adds little to the current understanding

If you find a major problem, note your reasoning and clear supporting evidence (including citations).

Concluding the First Reading

After the initial read and using your notes, including those of any major flaws you found, draft the first two paragraphs of your review - the first summarizing the research question addressed and the second the contribution of the work.

Before Starting the Second Read-Through

Once the paper has passed your first read and you've decided the article is publishable in principle, one purpose of the second, detailed read-through is to help prepare the manuscript for publication. Of course, you may still decide to reject it following a second reading.

The benchmark for acceptance is whether the manuscript makes a useful contribution to the knowledge base or understanding of the subject matter. It need not be fully complete research.

[Offer clear suggestions for how the authors can address the concerns raised. In other words, if you're going to raise a problem, provide a solution]

To save time and simplify the review:

  • Don't rely solely upon inserting comments on the manuscript document - make separate notes
  • Try to group similar concerns or praise together
  • Highlight the text as yellow color on the pdf file or write on the printed copy.

Read-Through: Section by Section Guidance

Does the title properly reflect the subject of the paper?

1.  Abstract

  > Whether written properly according to journal guidelines?

> Whether the main question addressed by the research and summarize the methods, results, and conclusions. It should:

  • Show the author what key messages are conveyed to the reader, so they can be sure they are achieving what they set out to do
  • Focus on successful aspects of the paper so the author gets a sense of what they've done well

2. Introduction

  >  Is the paper's premise interesting and important?

>  Sets out the argument

>  Summarizes recent research related to the topic

>  Highlights gaps in current understanding or conflicts in current knowledge

>  Establishes the originality of the research aims by demonstrating the need for investigations in the topic area

>  Gives a clear idea of the target readership, why the research was carried out, and the novelty and topicality of the manuscript

Originality and Topicality

Originality and topicality can only be established in the light of recent authoritative research. For example, it's impossible to argue that there is a conflict in current understanding by referencing articles that are 10 years old.

Authors may make the case that a topic hasn't been investigated in several years and that new research is required. This point is only valid if researchers can point to recent developments in data-gathering techniques or to research in indirectly related fields that suggest the topic needs revisiting. Authors can only do this by referencing recent literature. Where older research is seminal or where aspects of the methodology rely upon it, then it is perfectly appropriate for authors to cite some older papers.


It's common for the introduction to end by stating the research aims. By this point you should already have a good impression of them - if the explicit aims come as a surprise, then the introduction needs improvement.

3.   Materials and Methods

  >  What did the authors do?

>  Are the methods used appropriately?

The research should be replicable, repeatable, and robust - and follow best practice.

Replicable Research

This makes sufficient use of:

  • Control experiments
  • Repeated analyses
  • Repeated experiments
  • Sampling

These are used to make sure observed trends are not due to chance and that the same experiment could be repeated by other researchers - and result in the same outcome. Statistical analyses will not be sound if methods are not replicable. Where the research is not replicable, the paper should be recommended for rejection.

Repeatable Methods

These give enough detail so that other researchers can carry out the same research. For example, equipment used or sampling methods should all be described in detail so that others could follow the same steps. Where methods are not detailed enough, it's usual to ask for the methods section to be revised.

Robust Research

This has enough data points to make sure the data are reliable. If there are insufficient data, it might be appropriate to recommend revision. You should also consider whether there is any in-built bias not nullified by the control experiments.

Best Practice

During these checks, you should keep in mind the best practice:

Standard guidelines were followed (e.g. the CONSORT Statement for reporting randomized trials)

  • The health and safety of all participants in the study was not compromised
  • Ethical standards were maintained

If the research fails to reach relevant best practice standards, it's usual to recommend rejection. What's more, you don't then need to read any further.

4.   Results

This section should tell a coherent story - What happened? What was discovered or confirmed?

Certain patterns of good reporting need to be followed by the author:

  • They should start by describing in simple terms what the data show
  • They should refers to statistical analyses, such as significance or goodness of fit
  • Once described, they should evaluate the trends observed and explain the significance of the results to a wider understanding. This can only be done by referencing published research
  • The outcome should be a critical analysis of the data collected

 5.   Discussion

Discussion should always, at some point, gather all the information together into a single whole. Authors should describe and discuss the overall story formed. If there are gaps or inconsistencies in the story, they should address these and suggest ways future research might confirm the findings or take the research forward.

6.   Conclusion

Whether the conclusion is written in one/two sentences.

  >  Do the data support the conclusion(s)?

Information Gathered: Images, Figures, and Data Tables

  >  Figures, Tables, results: Do they make sense?

If you find yourself looking at a piece of information from which you cannot discern a story, then you should ask for improvements in presentation. This could be an issue with titles, labels, statistical notation, or image quality.

Where information is clear, you should check that:

  • The results seem plausible, in case there is an error in data gathering
  • The trends you can see support the paper's discussion and conclusions
  • There are sufficient data. For example, in studies carried out over time are there sufficient data points to support the trends described by the author?

You should also check whether images have been edited or manipulated to emphasize the story they tell. This may be appropriate but only if authors report on how the image has been edited (e.g. by highlighting certain parts of an image). If you feel that an image has been edited or manipulated without explanation, you should highlight this in a confidential comment to the editor in your report.   

Write a report

Please write the report in simple and clear English. Check the journal guidelines and decision options.

Review structure:

  > Key structure
  • Summary of the research
  • Summarize your overall impression

> Evidence and examples

  • Suggestion to improve the study (essential changes for the manuscript to proceed; still important but may not impact conclusions)

> Title

  • Concise and information

> Materials and Methods

  • Clear and detailed with references
  • Appropriate for research questions?
  • Missing any experiment?
  • Are the statistical methods scientifically sound?

> Results

  • Data correlate with the title, research question, and conclusion
  • Presented the Figures and Tables; Correctly labeled the Figures

> Discussion

> Missing any citation and reference