Become a Reviewer
Family Medicine appreciates its reviewers. If you are interested in reviewing for Family Medicine, visit our reviewer center to log in and complete an assigned review (existing reviewers), or to create a new account (new reviewers). You will be asked to identify your areas of interest/expertise which the editors of Family Medicine will use to match reviewers with appropriate manuscripts.
These instructions provide guidance about how to complete a thorough and professional peer review of a manuscript for our journal. Every paper is unique, so it is unlikely that a highly standardized process will work well for every paper or for every reviewer. So this document is intended to be a guide, to stimulate your thinking. Our goal is to have an efficient review process that produces the best possible published material and shares the most useful feedback for the authors that honor us by sharing their work with our journal.
The first step in the review process is to consider what type of manuscript you are reviewing. You should evaluate each paper in a manner consistent with the submission category
Original articles should be major works of scholarship describing original ideas that are rigorously tested. Many of these papers will be research reports; others may be presentations of a theoretical nature. All original articles should propose ideas that are rigorously defended by citing relevant peer-reviewed literature. They should not simply be expressions of opinion, even expert opinion. The innovation described in original articles should be broadly applicable to many programs around the nation and internationally; they should be generalizable to settings other than the program(s) where the study was carried out.
Review Criteria for Original Articles
Please consider the following questions when you are evaluating an original article manuscript:
- Is the topic of the paper relevant to the practice or education of health professionals in the primary care disciplines? Is the topic likely to be interesting or useful to those who read our journal?
- Does the introduction section of the paper provide a comprehensive context for the study? Do the authors explain why the study is important? Do they review all previously published peer-reviewed literature in the introduction section? Do they explain how their work builds on the foundation of previously published work? Is the study’s purpose clearly and explicitly defined?
- Does the methods section include detailed information about how the study was carried out? Is the method an appropriate approach to answering the question defined in the paper’s introduction? Are sources of bias acknowledged and limited by the methods used by the authors?
- Is the results section written concisely? Is the information presented directly related to the study’s goals? Do the authors make good use of tables and figures? Are these tables and figures understandable without referring excessively to the text? Is the statistical analysis described in the paper appropriate for the data being analyzed?
- Does the discussion section explain how this study contributes to what was previously known about the subject? Does it acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of the paper? Does it lay a foundation for future research on this topic? Are the conclusions justified from the methods and results of this study? Is the information in the paper new, or is it an important replication of earlier work?
- Is the paper written in a clear and concise manner? Is it easy to read? Are the terms used in the paper defined and explained?
- Is this study likely to be broadly relevant to readers working in similar settings? Are the results generalizable beyond the setting in which the study was conducted? Are this study’s results likely to cause other programs to change the way they do things.
This category is for original works of scholarship that are of smaller scope. These might be pilot projects or reports describing new ideas tested in only one program. The primary difference between original articles and brief reports will usually be the size and scope of the work. Thus, brief reports can be held to a lower standard of generalizability. They should be interesting new ideas, but they need not have been tested in multiple programs. Brief reports should have rigorous and well-described methods. This category is not for sloppy studies, but for smaller and less generalizable ones.
Review Criteria for Brief Reports
Brief reports should also describe new and innovative ideas that are relevant to the work of family physicians for primary care educators. They should be evaluated by the same criteria as original articles. There are, however, two important differences in how you should assess brief reports:
- Brief reports can be preliminary analyses or pilot projects and should not be held to as high a standard of generalizability. The conclusions of a brief report might not yet be directly relevant to other programs, but they should show potential relevance. In essence, the conclusions of a brief report should cause other programs to consider repeating the work on a larger scale.
- Brief reports should reflect as rigorous a literature review and study design as an original article. They need not, however be held to as high a standard of controlling for local program characteristics as expected of original articles.
This category includes papers that tell narrative stories that are relevant and interesting to our readers. These might be stories from practice or stories from experiences in medical education. Narrative essays could be fact or fiction and they might be prose or poetry. In general, we are looking for stories that illuminate important dimensions of the work of family physicians that might not lend themselves to formal analysis, either quantitative or qualitative.
Review Criteria for Narrative Essays
Narrative essays are not research reports and will usually bear little resemblance to original articles of brief reports. They are not intended to be analytical; rather they should be insightful and reflective. When reviewing narrative essays, you should consider the following issues:
- Is the story shared in this paper relevant to family physicians or educators in the primary care disciplines?
- Does the story offer an important perspective about what we learn in our work as physicians or educators? Does this perspective offer important insight into the meaning of our work?
- Is the story written in a compelling manner? Not only should the story be interesting, it should be well told. Does this paper tell the story in a creative way?
- Does the paper create an appropriate emotional context for the story? Is the story told in a way that tells you something about its author?
- Will the readers of Family Medicine learn something about themselves or their work by reading this paper?
Want to Review Narrative Essays for Family Medicine?
In this video, Family Medicine Assistant Editor Sarah Shields, MD, MS, and colleagues provide helpful background and practical tips for conducting reviews of narrative essay submissions for Family Medicine.
Good peer reviewers are an essential element to a successful journal. Your goal is not simply to criticize the work; it is to evaluate its usefulness to our readers. The peer review process should help us identify work of the highest quality and relevance. It should also help us to advise authors about how to make their work better. To fulfill this role, please consider the following:
- Complete your review as quickly as you can. Immediate feedback is more useful than delayed feedback. We have an obligation to return papers we will not be publishing as quickly as possible to their authors so the author can improve the paper and send it elsewhere. Our goal is to complete the entire process in 30 days or less.
- Please be professional and thorough in the feedback you provide to authors. Share what you like and what you are concerned about and explain your recommendation. Feedback to authors should be kind and professional, but it should not be sugar coated or circumspect.
- Please share comments for the editor when you have comments that are not appropriate to share directly with the author, but are important reasons for your recommendation. For example, if you do not understand the paper’s statistical analysis, say so. We might want to seek additional peer reviewers to address things you are uncertain about.
- All papers cannot be rescued and rescuing them is not our job. Please suggest minor and major revisions only for those papers you think should ultimately be published. If you do not think a paper can be improved enough to be published, recommend that it be rejected. We want to avoid asking authors to make extensive revisions only to reject the paper anyway.
- Manuscripts are shared with you in a confidential manner. You should never share them with colleagues or talk about them until they are published. You should never use the ideas you find in these papers for your own purposes until they are published. Authors trust us with their work and we should maintain a very high professional standard in not violating that trust. Family Medicine no longer blinds the identity of authors in the peer review process. This makes it all the more important that you adhere to the highest standards of professionalism in handling them.
Be a Family Medicine Reviewer
Family Medicine appreciates its reviewers. If you are interested in reviewing for Family Medicine, visit our reviewer center and create an account. You will be asked to identify your areas of interest/expertise which the editors of Family Medicine will use to match reviewers with appropriate manuscripts.