As part of our first ever review writing competition on Publons, we're writing a series of articles on how to write the best reviews possible. Read on, and improve your chances to win!
So, now we've got ourselves a great paper to review, and we want to win the Publons competition! But what do we write about the paper? What do we want to share with the rest of the scientific community? How do we choose the quality and significance scores?
Well first of all, there are some evaluations of a paper that every review should include. Readers will want to know, for example, if the sufficient information has been given to motivate the work, that the experimental details are described sufficiently to allow replication of the work, that the claims made in the conclusion are reasonable given the results, and so on. Many guidelines currently used by journals are available publicly, such as here and here.
Beyond the usual, there are two main things to keep in mind when writing a review with the goal of getting endorsements. People will usually endorse a review for one of two reasons - either it accurately reflects the endorser's own view on the paper, or it adds some value or discussion to the paper.
On Publons, the quality and significance scores are both between one and ten, and the number given represents the decile in which this paper lies. So for example, a quality score of ten means that you think the reviewed paper is of higher quality than 90% or more of all other papers, and a significance score of 3 means that you think that about 20% of all papers are of lower significance, and about 70% of papers are of higher significance. Choose these numbers as accurately as possible in order to have other scientists endorse you!
Adding value mostly comes from lending new insight to the results shown. One good way to do this is to place it in context of other research not already mentioned by the authors. Another way is to point out any obvious omissions or outstanding questions. You can also suggest other fields or pieces of research that might benefit from the research in the paper. Finally, a post-publication peer-review often has the benefit of being able to take into account subsequent work in the field, so take advantage of that! Discussing and citing any advancement or argument following on from the paper you review is useful and readers trying to become familiar with the field will thank you for it.
Last of all, don't be afraid to be critical when appropriate! As a reader, you would want to know if there are any potential issues that may affect the research. Perhaps you're not convinced that an assumption that was made was reasonable, or perhaps you think that an aspect of the experimental design could have been better? Pass on the information. Both the readers of your review and the authors of the paper may find it valuable.
That's all for now, keep up the writing!