Guidelines for Peer Reviewers

1. Process of getting an article ready for publication and the reviewer’s role

We welcome you as a Peer Reviewer for the South Sudan Medical Journal. You can review our vision, mission, aims here. There is a process that takes place of getting an article ready for peer review and publication:

When an article is submitted, the editors make an initial check to see if it is suitable for the journal. It is checked by the Chief Reviewer and/or Editorial Advisor for obvious errors/typos, and to ensure that the ‘Authors’ Guidelines’ have been followed, and any permissions needed obtained.  A decision is made as to whether or not the article is likely to be accepted for publication. A blind copy is sent to you, the Peer Reviewer, to:

  • Check that it is clinically/statistically accurate, gives up-to-date reliable medical guidance, is properly referenced and is relevant to the health situation in South Sudan. See below for questions to guide you.
  • Check that it follows the SSMJ Authors’ Guidelines especially regarding length and style.
  • Suggest, if necessary, how to make it more 'readable'. Although SSMJ is an academic medical journal we want to make sure it is easily readable by all groups of healthcare professionals in South Sudan (some of whom have limited English). So we aim to: use short sentences, active verbs (we like to use 'We' and 'You'), and to replace 'difficult/unusual' words and terms with simpler ones. We limit the overuse of acronyms.

We encourage young medics and other health personnel to send their research and other articles – and some need help with preparing articles for publication. We see this as an important role for both reviewer and editor.

  • When reviewing the article mark it in  the way you prefer although we prefer tracked changes and ‘comments’, as well as a general overview to guide the author (see suggestions below).  Please return your review by the given deadline to David Tibbutt [email protected] and Ann Burgess [email protected]o.uk.
  • Your review is sent anonymously to the author, who is asked to make changes as necessary. We may send it back to you if there are further queries.
  • When cleared by the author(s), the article is sent to the Chief Reviewer and the Editors to check. If accepted by the Editors, it is then formatted for the journal. The author sees the final pdf.

For more detailed guidelines on peer reviewing see relevant parts of the following websites: http://editorresources.taylorandfrancisgroup.com/reviewers-guidelines-and-best-practice/  and http://www.bmj.com/about-bmj/resources-reviewers/guidance-peer-reviewers

For any queries consult our Chief Reviewer, David Tibbutt [email protected],  and cc to Ann Burgess [email protected].

2. Questions to consider when peer reviewing a paper

  • Will it help our readers to make better medical decisions and, if so, how?
  • Will it add to the existing knowledge of health workers in South Sudan?
  • Is the submission original?
  • Does the paper fit the scope of the journal?
  • Would the paper be of interest to the readership of the journal?
  • Are all relevant accompanying data, citations, or references given by the author?
  • Should it be shortened and reconsidered in another form?
  • Would you recommend that the paper be rejected and the author reconsider the paper for a related or alternative journal?

3. For research articles consider these points

  • Research question — clearly defined and appropriately answered?
  • Overall design of study — appropriate and adequate to answer the research question?
  • Participants — adequately described, their conditions defined, inclusion and exclusion criteria described? How representative were they of patients whom this evidence might affect? Did they give permission?
  • Methods — adequately described? Main outcome measure clear? Was the study approved by an ethics committee?
  • Results — answer the research question? Credible? Well presented?
  • Interpretation/Discussion and conclusions — warranted by and sufficiently derived from/focused on the data? Discussed in the light of previous evidence? Message clear?
  • References — up to date and relevant? Any glaring omissions?
  • Abstract/summary/key messages/ — reflect accurately what the paper says?
  • Being critical whilst remaining sensitive to the author(s) isn’t always easy and comments should be carefully constructed so that the author(s) fully understands what actions they need to take to improve their paper. 

4. Provide comments as needed

  • These should be suitable for sending (blind) to the author(s).
  • Suggest how the author(s) can improve clarity and the overall quality of presentation.
  • Confirm whether you feel the subject of the paper is sufficiently interesting to justify its length; if you recommend shortening, it is useful to the author(s) if you can indicate specific areas where you think that shortening is required.
  • It is helpful if you correct the English where the technical meaning is unclear.
  • A reviewer may disagree with the author’s opinions, but should allow them to stand, provided they are consistent with the available evidence.
  • Remember that the author(s) (particularly young ones) welcome and are encouraged by positive feedback as well as constructive criticism.
  • When you advise the paper is not suitable for publication in the journal, give a summary of your reasons in a constructive way to help author improve his/her submissions in the future.