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The High Society: How to Write a Review that Lets Everyone Know How Awesome You Are

Nathan T. Carter*, University of Georgia

A highly important part of the review process is to serve as a check and balance on the quality of scientific research and the veracity of the claims made by the investigators. But even more important to this venerated process is that everyone knows just how awesome and smart you are. So here is a list of things you can do to let editors and the authors of the paper you’re reviewing know just how much better you are than them.

  1. First, and perhaps most importantly, NEVER consider that the author might be a graduate student submitting their first paper, and just proceed to rip them a new one! Again, don’t mistake this for giving clear advice, because how could you do that when everyone is so much less intelligent than you? They probably wouldn’t even understand it. Punch down. Hard.
  2. Write a really, really long review. The more bullet points the better. Sub-bullet points and sub-sub-bullet points count double and triple (respectively)!
  3. Use the word “theorizing.” A lot. As in, “You need to do more theorizing about _____,” but don’t be specific. Everyone will be in awe that you really understand how to “theorize,” even if the comment doesn’t make sense!
  4. Are the authors using an advanced method?
  5. Make sure to point out every potential misstep the authors could have made and use a LOT of technical jargon so that the action editor thinks “I don’t want to deal with this,” and rejects it.
  6. Never give a clear path to how the authors could convince you it was done correctly. On the other hand, if someone does a classic ANOVA or regression, don’t even question it. We all know those assumptions are never really met anyway, right?
  7. Be sure to ask why they didn’t just do an ANOVA, t-test, regression, or correlational analysis. Who cares about modeling the data appropriately when it challenges you to learn something new?
  8. Suggest citing your own article even if the the outcome and/or proposed causal mechanisms aren’t the same at all. It’s even more effective if you act indignant about the fact that it was not cited.
  9. Be sure to recommend rejection to any study that does things differently than you would do it. Because there’s definitely always a “right” way to do things in science. Have a pet theory that your work is based on? Well, recommend rejection if the authors invoke a competing theory. Are there five different theories in the field and the authors only discuss two, leaving your fave out? Make a big deal about it and imply that the authors are dumb.
  10. Finally, and this is important, be sure to say things like “I may have missed it,” when you actually just didn’t read the article very carefully. Who has the time when you’re just so busy being brilliant?

To summarize, being difficult and unreasonable is perhaps the best way to signal competence. If you were understanding and helpful how would everyone know how dumb they are relative to you? How else are you supposed to make yourself feel superior? I hope these suggestions have been helpful and constructive. (Oh, and you could say that too when you’re clearly being a jerk in the rest of the review.)

Note

*All opinions are mine, and are not those of my colleagues or students, whom are much better people than I. Hate mail can be sent to my surprisingly still active email at carternt@yahoo.com or posted anonymously on various reddit forums (if you’re cool).

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