Peer Review Guidelines


This guide is written to help you peer review manuscripts submitted to Dove Medical Press journals. Reading this should answer most of the queries you have and guide you in completing a peer review report in the most thorough and prompt way to ensure the paper is properly reviewed and published quickly. If you have any further queries, please submit them to our Editorial Offices.

Our philosophy on peer review

Authors have historically complained of the time it takes to get a paper published. Dove Medical Press tries hard to process papers as thoroughly, fairly and rapidly as possible. As a result, peer reviewers are asked to submit their comments within 10 business days.

All manuscripts submitted to Dove Medical Press journals are subject to single blind peer review. We believe that using anonymous peer reviewers is the best way to get honest opinions on papers. Dove Medical Press requires that peer reviewers not contact authors directly. You should consider the COPE Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers before accepting to review a manuscript and throughout the peer review process.

An outline of the manuscript lifecycle, from submission to publication, can be viewed here.

What is peer review?

Peer review is the process in which manuscripts are sent to impartial experts in the field who evaluate their quality and scientific soundness before publication. The exact process used for peer review varies between publishers and from journal to journal, but generally the method will fall into one of three categories:

Single blind: authors’ identities are known to reviewers, but reviewers are anonymous

Double blind: both authors’ and reviewers’ identities are kept from each other

Open peer review: authors’ and reviewers’ identities are disclosed, and reviewer comments and author responses are publicly available

There is a fourth model, referred to as post publication peer review, in which peer review occurs after publication. This is often performed in addition to traditional pre-publication peer review and attempts to provide a platform for the wider research community to discuss published papers and authors to respond to comments on their work.

Why is peer review important? 

Peer reviewers’ comments and recommendations are an essential guide to inform the editor’s decision on a manuscript. Peer review ensures that manuscripts receive unbiased critique and expert feedback, allowing authors to improve their manuscript and therefore high-quality scientific research and reviews to be published. It also helps the readers to trust the scientific integrity of the article and to make informed decisions where peer reviewer comments are available.

The Peer Reviewer

After receiving a request to peer review it is essential that peer reviewers respond in a timely fashion, particularly if they cannot do the review, to avoid unnecessarily delaying the process.

Peer reviewers should declare any conflicts of interest (seeking advice from the publisher if they are unsure), and possess sufficient knowledge in the field to perform a thorough assessment of the manuscript. You can find further information on competing interests here.

Peer reviewers must keep any information regarding the identity of the authors and the content of the manuscript confidential.

Peer review comments should be objective and constructive without being of a hostile or derogatory nature.

Further information on ethical peer review issues and conflicts of interest can be found in the COPE guidelines.

Writing the Report

Peer reviewers should assess the major strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript as well as look at the statistical power of the study if relevant.

In the first part of their report, peer reviewers should answer the questions assessing the quality and content of the manuscript and scientific methods. These will guide the peer reviewer to reflect on points which might need to be addressed by the author(s).

Peer reviewers must ensure that they answer the following questions in their report:

  • In general, is the paper easy to follow and does it have a logical flow?
  • Do the title and abstract cover the main aspects of the work?
  • Are the results novel? Does the study provide an advance in the field?
  • Did the study gain ethical approval appropriate to the country in which the research was performed if human or animal subjects were involved and is it stated in the manuscript?
  • Does the paper raise any ethical concerns?
  • Are the methods clear and replicable?
  • Do all the results presented match the methods described?
  • Is the statistical analysis appropriate to the study design?
  • Are the controls appropriate for the study design?
  • Is the data clearly and appropriately presented using clear language?
  • Did the authors make the underlying data available to the readers?
  • Do the conclusions correlate to the results found?
  • Are the figures and tables clear and legible?
  • Are images appropriate for the article? If there are any concerns about duplication or manipulation in images, please raise potential issues by email or in your report. Please refer to our image manipulation policy.
  • Does the paper use appropriate references in the correct style to promote understanding of the content?
  • Does the English grammar, punctuation or spelling need to be corrected?

Peer reviewers should then provide the Editor-in-Chief with a recommendation regarding the suitability of the manuscript for publication by giving a score from 1-9 detailing the quality of the manuscript (manuscripts with a score of 1 are of outstanding quality).  

The table below provides the scoring system and gives the definition of each number.



Suggested Action 



Paper is well written and a significant contribution to the literature. No improvement needed.



Accept after discretionary revisions.


Very good

Some minor revisions needed.



Several minor revisions needed.



Paper requires multiple minor revisions, but I commend this paper to the Editor-in-Chief.



One major revision and several minor revisions needed.



Some major revisions needed with multiple minor revisions required.


Very poor

Major revisions needed to improve scientific validity and/or clarity.



The manuscript has major flaws that cannot be improved with revisions. Rejection without option to resubmit recommended.


  • Discretionary Revision: An optional revision that may improve the overall quality of the manuscript but does not affect the scientific validity of the study.
  • Minor Revisions: Issues that must be addressed by the author(s) before publication in order to adhere to scientific reporting standards, or issues affecting clarity.
  • Major Revisions: Major revisions needed which may consist of a lack of ethical consent statement, a conclusion contradicted by results, further experiments needed to support the conclusions (e.g. controls), unclear figures and tables etc.

In the second part of the report, the peer reviewer must explain their recommendation by writing a short summary describing their assessment of the manuscript. They should then provide numbered comments detailing points to be addressed by the author(s). All requested major revisions should be clearly outlined. Minor revisions should also be mentioned where the peer reviewer feels these will improve the clarity and purpose of the manuscript.

If any form of misconduct is suspected such as plagiarism, undeclared conflicts of interest, falsification of results etc., these should be expressed directly in confidence to the Editor-in-Chief of the journal.

Re-review request

Peer reviewers may be requested to re-review the authors’ revised manuscript and point-by-point responses to their comments. Upon re-review, peer reviewers must ensure that all issues raised in the initial peer review report have been addressed and, if necessary, appropriately amended by the authors. Peer reviewers should once more assess the manuscript using the guidelines above and provide a revised recommendation.

Updated 14 March 2019