One of the most important aspects of Clocks and Clouds is the productive relationship between editors and authors, both of whom learn throughout the process of editing and reviewing research. As editors, it is important to balance being firm yet respectful, and to provide advice that is ultimately constructive for the author during the revision process. Below are five tips which will help guide you through the review process.
1. Your author is real and has emotions, too. As obvious as it may seem, keep in mind that the papers you are or will be reviewing come from authors who, like you, are likely undergraduate students who have spent a considerable amount of time and effort creating a product they believe to be worthy of publication. Be polite and considerate of the author’s feelings when you review their paper. Confused at your author’s meandering literature review? Avoid vague generalizations. Provide specifics – note when and where the author’s logic begins tapering off, and provide advice on how the author can get back on track again. As you provide advice structure your recommendations in a suggestive rather than authoritative manner. Instead of “You need to…” try, “I recommend that…”. Instead of “This is wrong” provide an alternate, “You can try…”. At the end of the day remember that authors do not submit to Clocks and Clouds to read criticism; they seek constructive feedback to improve their own research.
2. Authors are not mind-readers. As part of double-blind review process, your author will not have the opportunity to speak or converse with you in detail. If there is a particular issue with the paper which you feel requires significant discussion, feel free to take as much time and room as you would like to elaborate. While we advise editors not to overwhelm their authors with red ink, going into detail in the rubric is almost always a good thing.
3. Every author deserves your full attention and effort. Occasionally you will receive a paper that simply doesn’t look like the others. Perhaps it is lacking the standard subsections of a research paper. It may be in a different font, or present research in a tone you are not used to. Rather than give half the effort you normally would, try and be considerate of the author and give him or her the benefit of the doubt. It can be easy to overvalue your personal writing style or a prose you are familiar with, and consequentially look down upon another person’s unorthodox writing style. Yet be mindful that the content of the research paper should be judged separately. We have published papers in the past with a strong research foundation yet required copious amounts of editing during the review cycle. It is better to spend too much time reviewing a paper which ultimately does not receive your recommendation, rather than spend too little time and overlook quality research with publication potential.
4. Ask for help if you need it – we don’t bite. The senior staff and faculty at AU are all accomplished experts in the field of research, and will generally be receptive and encouraging of your extracurricular activities, especially when it comes to Clocks and Clouds. So long as you are considerate of their time and schedule, dropping by your research methods professor’s office hours to ask a question or two about a particular quantitative or qualitative method can go a long way towards building rapport with faculty. You may discover something new to incorporate in your own research as well!
5. Do not procrastinate. After a long day at work or school, nobody – not even the most enthusiastic of editors – looks forward to spending the last hours of the day frantically reviewing a research paper before a deadline. Although students tend to be informal experts in procrastination, it is unfair for both you and your author to submit a rushed review lacking in qualitative commentary. Editors working under a deadline also tend to channel their frustration into their reviews, resulting in particularly sharp comments from editors who are normally constructive and friendly.