Guidance for peer reviewers

 

(Based on Capacious open access journal Reviewer Guidelines licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0)

Critical Studies in Teaching and Learning (CriSTaL) is a journal that aims to provide a stimulating and challenging forum for contributors to describe, theorise, and report their ideas and practice on critical teaching and learning. As part of a community of practice, in the South African educational context, this journal aims to continually build upon and extend the network of seasoned academics and newcomers interested in making contributions to critical scholarship of teaching and learning in higher education continentally and globally. Because CriSTaL is a journal which is intended to be an affirmative space for authors, reviewers are expected to frame their reviews from a perspective of mentorship and with an ethos of community building. As the journal is especially interested in manuscripts that might unsettle rather than reinforce the status quo of scholarship in teaching and learning, the expectation is that our journal reviewers will respond to such challenges and differences, as they might arise, in a collegial spirit that is generous and rigorous at the same time. When composing one’s editorial feedback on submissions, reviewers should always take into account (and be reminded of their own feelings of being in) the position of an author putting forward their ideas for publication.

The managing editor reserves the right to smooth over rough edges of any review that displays an abundance of sharp comments before passing such reviews along to authors. In the best of all worlds, reviewers will find a way to strike a balance between advice and critique. We cannot overemphasise how important a gracious and considerate etiquette of reviewing means to the contributors of manuscripts for CriSTaL.

These are the main criteria that reviewers will be asked to consider when writing their responses to journal submissions:

Readability

●      How well does the Title summarise the key issues that are examined in the paper? How easily can the Abstract be understood without reading the full paper?

●      How well does the Introduction demonstrate that the area of research is important, critical, interesting, problematic, relevant, or otherwise worthy of investigation? Does the writer’s own point of view and voice emerge as distinct from their references?

●      How clearly articulated is the conceptual framework? How appropriate and well-justified is the theoretical framework?

●      Are the modes of inquiry employed well executed and appropriate to the particular problem? Are the research problem/questions, the selection of the study participants, study instruments, consent and ethics procedures circumstances sufficiently described? Does the author describe how the study was conducted in sufficient detail to allow readers to evaluate the appropriateness of the research process? Does the author describe the measures taken to address issues the credibility of the study?

●      Is the writing largely free of typos, spelling, citational and grammar mistakes? (Note: it is not among the reviewer’s tasks to correct these but, if there is an abundance, this should be noted.)

●      Do you think that CriSTaL readers will find the paper to be engaging and insightful?

Coherence

 Can you readily identify the core argument and sub-themes of the paper? Is the line of the main argument easy to follow? Is there need for further clarification on certain points? Does the selection and deployment of conceptual / theoretical knowledge enhance or weaken the the paper’s argument/presentation? Do certain ideas / examples /theories mesh effectively or clash? Are quotations and the cited use of others’ work adequately framed and developed? Do the paper’s conclusions fit with its premises?

Relevance

Does the author display an adequate grasp of the relevant literature in the specific area of critical teaching and learning in the issue that forms the basis for this paper? Does the paper break some new ground? Or is it largely a rehash of existing arguments and ideas? Do you have tightly focused suggestions for resources might address any particular scholarly blind spots or conceptual misunderstandings evident in the paper? Is the paper too reliant upon theory jargon and/or uniquely refined terminology derived from a specific disciplinary viewpoint that could affect its accessibility to readers from other disciplines? At the level of citation and argument-construction, does the paper reveal a capacity to engage beyond the ‘usual suspects’ and bring new voices, fresh perspectives, and procedures of inquiry into the critical scholarship of teaching and learning?

Overall impression

 What are the paper’s major weaknesses and strengths? What does the paper contribute to contemporary conversations and debates about teaching and learning? Is the paper critical: does it open up space for more engagement? Does it provoke and stir without shutting down or shutting out other voices/methodologies/scenes of scholarly investigation? Did you find yourself persuaded or your attention captured by a novel or nuanced understanding about the critical scholarship of teaching and learning as advanced in this paper? Are there any final encouraging words and advice that you wish pass along to the author(s) about the work that they’ve undertaken with this submission and the trajectory that they are following?

Reviews should be approximately at least one page (or more) of carefully considered commentary based on the above criteria and – with reviewer etiquette foremost in mind – composed with the author(s) of the paper as the reviewer’s sole audience. That is, as much as possible, CriSTaL would like to avoid the two sets of remarks that are often standard in other journal reviews: one for the authors and another set for the journal editors. If there are circumstances that require a separate line of communication to the journal editors about the quality of the paper and the abilities of the authors, then we want to make such unique circumstances the exception and not the rule. We believe that the task of reviewing should be as transparent as possible.

Your Recommendations

 Along with the above written commentary, we ask you to also indicate which of the following categories best fits your evaluation of the paper:

Accept

The submission is well written, clearly argued, and makes an original contribution to the study of teaching and learning. It will be published in CriSTaL without the need for further revision.

Conditional accept

The submission needs only a few very minor revisions/corrections, and the managing editor – working with the author(s) – will oversee their quick completion. 

Accept with minor changes

The revisions that are necessary are minor, but acceptance is dependent upon authors adequately revising the paper in light of reviewer comments. Further rewriting/revision is necessary but once completed, and checked by the editorial team, the submission is likely to be accepted.

Revise and resubmit

Substantial rethinking, rewriting and reframing must be done before the author(s) can resubmit. Authors asked to revise and resubmit must compose a brief cover letter outlining how they have specifically addressed the reviewers’ concerns. Please see Responding to Reviewers for guidance.

Reject

The submission falls short of the journal’s expectations of scholarship in the study of critical scholarship in teaching and learning and does not warrant further consideration by CriSTaL. Please give reasons for rejection in your report. The managing editor will try to offer scholarly advice, guidance, and constructive feedback about other venues or future possibilities for this work.