Service Referee Reports: A Beginner's Guide

Referee Reports: A Beginner’s Guide

There are many aspects of professional academic life that are seldom explicitly taught to graduate students.  Among them are some of the responsibilities involved in service work for the profession, such as refereeing papers for journals.  I created the handout linked here for use in connection with a course at the University at Buffalo SUNY, originally designed by my colleague Neil Williams, where graduate students work on their writing and presenting skills, along with giving each other feedback on a number of matters concerning professionalization.  In the course, which I have been teaching for the past couple of years, students write referee reports on each other’s papers.  So I’ve been working up a handout to go along with my general discussion of referee reports in the class.  I asked for feedback on the handout from some folks on my Facebook page to make sure I wasn’t unintentionally indoctrinating students with idiosyncratic views—I am sometimes happy to be intentionally idiosyncratic—and several other people on my Facebook expressed an interest in seeing the handout just for their own sake and recommended making it more widely available.

So I am making it more widely available.

Some notes on this handout:

  • This handout is intended to be presented to students, not merely distributed to them.  There are a lot of places to elaborate on points made or qualify things that had to be omitted to keep the handout from becoming a novel.
  • This handout is intended to be presented with a mock/sample referee report.  Illustration is often more helpful than exposition.  So, again, this handout is not intended to be used as a standalone introduction to referee report writing.
  • Additionally, this is still a work in progress. I am very open to feedback from people telling me that my understanding of refereeing norms is off-base, so that I can correct it, or at least note the places where I am an outlier.

Lewis Powell is an assistant professor of philosophy at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, and Lead Editor of the Blog of the APA. He specializes in history of early modern philosophy, focusing on issues in early modern theories of mind and language.   


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