The peer review process is similar for all journals, with some variation expected between journals. The procedure described here is the process used by IJSPT with manuscript submissions. Once an author submits a manuscript through the online submission process, it is automatically logged in and checked to make sure that the submission is complete and has been prepared according to the IJSPT submission instructions. At this time a receipt of manuscript acknowledgement is sent to the author to let them know that their manuscript has been received. Each manuscript is then read by an editor (either individually or in consultation) to assess its suitability for the journal according to the guidelines determined by the editorial policy. This is an important step to ensure that (1) the content falls within the scope of the journal, (2) the manuscript follows editorial policy and procedural guidelines, and (3) that it does not contain an unacceptable level of overlap with manuscripts that are already in press. A manuscript could be rejected without additional review for one or more of the previous reasons, and the author notified.
While manuscripts can be rejected without involving additional reviewers, they cannot be accepted for publication without additional review. So if a manuscript is not rejected when first received, it is then sent out for review to a minimum of two additional reviewers who are part of the journal's cadre of reviewers. Review by Associate Editors or staff may compliment this process. Within the medical and scientific communities, debate continues as to the precise form that a peer review should take. The closed review process
is the traditional form of peer review adopted by most journals. One prominent area of contention is the subject of blinding. The most common model seems to be the single‐blinded review, in which the reviewer's identities are withheld from the authors but the reviewers are aware who wrote the paper they are evaluating.6
This system has been heavily criticized for having the potential for bias because work originating from certain authors, institutions, or geographic regions may be treated more or less critically. The second type of blinding is the double‐blind review. With a double‐blind review the identity of the authors is also masked during the review process. Both the authors and the reviewers are unaware of each other's identity. This type of review has been popularly endorsed in author surveys and is the model employed by the IJSPT.6
While the double‐blind process does appear to be a much fairer method of assessment as compared to the single blind review, this peer review process does have some limitations. Manuscripts that draw heavily on the submitting authors previous research may be difficult to mask effectively while still giving the reviewers the information they need to evaluate the study thoroughly.6,7,8
Since the reviewers are often content experts within a given topic area, they may get enough clues from the citations in the manuscript and/or from their knowledge of the work going on in that topic area to hypothesize as to whom the author may be. Therefore, although it has been suggested that blinding reviewers to author identity leads to better opinions and reviews, this assertion has not been proven in trials.9,10
Much can be done to help with this problem through careful attention to the manner in which earlier work is referenced in a paper, although some authors may intentionally make their identity easier to discern if they feel their reputation (and citing their previous publications liberally) will garner better treatment from the reviewers.
Once reviewers are chosen and they accept their review assignment, the real process begins. Most reviewers use some form of checklist that covers some or all of the considerations offered in Appendix 1. Note that this checklist is best utilized with papers that are submitted in the category of Original Research, and different criteria or salient points for assessment may be utilized for other types of submissions such as Case Reports, Clinical Commentaries, and Clinical Suggestions.
The reviewers return their recommendations and reports to the editor (via the online submission system), who assesses them collectively, and then makes a decision, either on his or her own or in consultation with other editors on whether to reject the manuscript (either outright or with encouragement to resubmit), to withhold judgment pending major or minor revisions, to accept it pending satisfactorily completed revisions, or to accept it as written. Rarely, if ever, is a manuscript accepted as written! For manuscripts accepted pending revision, the authors must submit a revised manuscript that will go through all or some of the stages above. Once a manuscript has been revised satisfactorily (more than one revision may or may not be allowed) it will be accepted and put into the production process to be prepared for publication. An outline of this process can be seen in . Despite the apparent simplicity in this process, the actual steps may be quite elaborate and involve a number of people and alternative procedures, thus requiring substantial time to complete.
A graphic display of the “path” a manuscript takes after submission to The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy.