Peer Review Guidelines

The Peer Review Process is a means of ensuring that items published in The Journal of Genealogy and Family History meet high standards and that a consistent level of quality is maintained. Peer review seeks to evaluate the quality, validity, and relevance of scholarly research. The process aims to provide authors with constructive feedback from relevant experts which they can use to make improvements to their work, thus ensuring it is of the highest standard possible at the point of publication.

Peer review, also known as refereeing, is a collaborative process that allows manuscripts submitted to a journal to be evaluated and commented upon by independent experts within the same field of research. The evaluation and critique generated from peer review provides authors with an honest and constructive appraisal giving clear and concise feedback to improve their work and, critically, allows the editor to assess the paper’s suitability for publication in the journal.

The Journal of Genealogy and Family History uses what is known as a double-blind approach in which authors remain unaware of the identity of the reviewers while the reviewers in turn are unaware of the identity of the author. It is an established technique for minimizing bias in the review process by focusing on content.

Benefits of review
➢ Peer review, combined with a clear editorial policy sustained by the Editorial Board, is a positive process for all concerned and delivers a Journal with integrity based on credible content.
➢ Peer review is of great value to authors, providing unbiased feedback that will enable them to
improve and enhance the quality of their work.
➢ The process enriches submissions by improving their clarity, readability and reliability, so
enhances the readers’ experience.
➢ Peer review is of equal value to the reviewers by helping them hone their own critical faculties
and learn more that will help them in their own investigatory work.

Role of the peer reviewer
The reviewer acts as an expert adviser to the editors and as a filter and referee. The role includes making an evaluation of whether a paper:
➢ provides a significant, scholarly contribution to the field, asking questions that are relevant and worthy of attention
➢ is clearly structured and written
➢ has been adequately and accurately researched, sufficient to its purpose
➢ cites its sources to the required standard
➢ has employed appropriate and sufficiently rigorous analytic approaches and techniques, and has deployed them correctly
➢ offers a clear logic leading from analyses to conclusions
➢ provides coherent conclusions that provide insight to the initial questions
➢ is fit to be published or should be revised
➢ The peer review process

The publishing process
The overall context for peer review within the handling of submissions and publication can be
illustrated as follows:RQG Handbook The Journal of Genealogy and Family History
Page 87 of 91
The peer review procedure
The website on which The Journal of Genealogy and Family History is published incorporates a
workflow software system that guides authors, reviewers and editors through the publishing process.
The main features of the process from a peer-review perspective are as follows:
1. Intending authors submit their paper online
2. Editors carry out preliminary screening, prepare an anonymised copy of the paper and identify
suitable reviewers
3. An invitation to peer review is issued
4. On acceptance, the anonymised paper is issued for review
5. Reviewer reads the paper and prepares a brief summary of the paper and its contributionRQG Handbook The Journal of Genealogy and Family History
Page 88 of 91
6. Reviewer prepares a critique of the paper, its strengths and shortcomings, following Journal
7. Reviewer notes proposals for minor or major amendments
8. Reviewer assembles their review report with recommendation and feedback
9. Editors consolidate review reports and decide on further action
Online peer review management
Papers will be provided to you through the Journal website. There are a number of small steps in the
procedure as follows:
1. You will receive an email inviting you to review an article and providing login details.
2. Login with your management username. A ‘review pending’ will show on your “My Assigned”
list on the home page and on the Task list (left-hand sidebar).
3. Click on “Review”.
4. Click on “Accept Review” and continue.
5. Our Peer Review Guidelines will be available from this page, but if you do not need to refresh
your memory click on “Continue to Step #3.”
6. Download the submitted file for review. Pretend you have reviewed it and if you wish add a
few comments. Most importantly select “Accept Submission” in the Recommendation
dropdown. We can play with the other options later when we do more detailed testing. Click
on the “Submit Review” button.
Conducting a review
Individual reviewers have their own preferred way of managing the task. However, here are some
➢ Before accepting an invitation, be sure that you can deliver to the deadline. Do not accept an
invitation where there may be any conflict of interest in relation to the paper.
➢ Before starting to work on the paper, (re-)familiarise yourself with these Peer Review
Guidelines, with the Instructions to Authors, with the Journal format, and with the Review
Feedback form.
➢ A first rapid read-through is generally viewed as a good way to start. Gain a sense of the
nature of the paper; possibly prepare a short summary of what you believe are its main
features and the contribution it makes.
➢ Conduct a critical read-through; scribble notes on a printed copy if that suits you. Seek to
answer these key questions:
o Does the paper follow Journal style?
o Is it appropriate to the Journal and its readership?
The editors will have already formed a view that it is OK but a close reading can show that it is not
o Does the paper provide a contribution to the field? Is it original, novel, topical, an expansion
or addition to current understanding, a meaningful extension to earlier work? Is there
evidence of independent thinking and questioning of received wisdom?
o Has the paper answered the key questions it set out to address? Were these questions worthy
of attention?
o Is the material presented in a well-structured and accessible way? Is the content organized
and laid out well?
o Is the writing fluent? Is the language used clear, coherent and grammatical? Does it use
unnecessary jargon? Does it use terms that are unnecessarily rare and obscure? Is it overly
concerned with technical detail? Does it fall into anecdote?RQG Handbook The Journal of Genealogy and Family History
Page 89 of 91
o Does the Abstract adequately summarize the key findings/approach of the paper?
o Does the Introduction provide a sound, and sufficiently broad, context to the paper and
identify other key contributions in the field?
o Has a wide range of appropriate sources and seminal works been consulted? Have any littleknown or little-researched sources been used with effect?
o Are research strategies well defined and clearly focused and have they been pursued in an
effective way?
o Where appropriate, are there good descriptions of technical Methods employed and of the
ways in which their outputs are to be interpreted?
o Are Results clearly structured, presented and labeled? Is there a good choice of visualizations
(such as tables and graphics) that communicate well to the reader? Are they clearly presented,
properly scaled and offered with well-judged comparisons? Have appropriate statistical
methods been used in assessing numerical measures?
o Are genealogical findings evidence-based, and based on sources that are demonstrably useful
in this field? Are assumed linkages accurately derived following a clearly described assessment
of sources and source data?
o Are family trees drawn according to Journal standards?
o Are sources for information cited in all cases, and are corresponding references provided, in
the required style?
o Are Conclusions based on clear logical arguments that emerge from a sound assessment of
results and findings? Are they well structured to make key points cogently? Are conclusions
based on extensive and detailed analysis of results?
o Is the length of each section of the paper appropriate (neither unnecessarily long to convey
what is needed nor too short)?
Note. These questions are also available in a Review Checklist.
➢ Use the Journal’s Review Template to prepare your review report based on your answers to
the key questions. Include constructive feedback to the author phrased such that they can
see where, and possibly how, improvements can be made (if any are needed). The wording
of the key questions can be used in your feedback comments. Examples of possible comments
are given below.
➢ Provide your recommendation. The recommendations are:
o Accept – if the paper is judged suitable as it stands.
o Reject – if the paper is judged not suitable for publication in the Journal or is unlikely
to be able to be improved sufficiently.
o Re-submit with minor amendments – perhaps the commonest outcome and capable
of rapid turnaround and publication. The amendments must be listed since the resubmission will be checked by the editors alone to verify that amendments have been
made as expected.
o Re-submit with improvements – where some significant improvement is requested.
The re-submission may be re-reviewed to determine whether the improvement has
been successful.
➢ Submit your review using the online procedure to the website of The Journal of Genealogy
and Family History.
The editors will then consolidate the reviews and determine a final recommendation. Requests for
re-submission will be accompanied by a deadline.
Review deadlines
If you are unable to complete your report on a paper within the agreed time-frame, please inform the
editor as soon as possible so that the review process is not delayed. On occasion, extensions can be
provided or a brief report may suffice.RQG Handbook The Journal of Genealogy and Family History
Page 90 of 91
Preparing a review report
The report must be suitable for transmission to the author(s) as it stands. Being critical whilst
remaining sensitive to the author isn’t always easy and comments should be carefully constructed so
that the author fully understands what actions they need to take to improve the paper. Among other
• generalized or vague statements should be avoided along with negative comments that aren’t
relevant or constructive
• comments may be used to seek clarification on unclear points and for further elaboration
where a point has not been fully handled
• suggestions can be made as to how the author can improve clarity, succinctness, and the
overall quality of presentation
• recommendations can be made on the length of the paper and whether the subject justifies
its length; if you recommend shortening, it is useful to the author(s) if you can indicate specific
areas where you think that shortening would be beneficial.
It is not the job of the reviewer to edit the paper for English usage, but it is helpful if you correct the
English where the technical meaning is unclear.
Examples of feedback comments
Please note that these are just examples of how you might provide feedback on an author’s work.
Your review should, of course, always be tailored to the paper in question and the specific
requirements of the journal and the editor.
Positive comments
• “The manuscript is well-written in an engaging and lively style.”
• “The level is appropriate to our readership.”
• “The subject is very important. It is currently something of a “hot topic” and it is one to which
the author(s) have made significant contributions.”
• “This manuscript ticks all the boxes we normally have in mind for an X paper, and I have no
hesitation in recommending that it be accepted for publication after a few typos and other
minor details have been attended to.”
• “Given the complexity involved, the author has produced a number of positive and welcome
outcomes including the literature review which offers a useful overview of current research
and policy and the resulting bibliography which provides a very useful resource for current
• “This is a well-written paper that does identify an important gap.”
Constructive criticism
• “In the “Discussion” section I would have wished to see more information on…”
• “Overall I do not think that this article contains enough robust data to evidence the statement
made on page X, lines Y–Z.”
• “I would strongly advise the author(s) of this paper to rewrite their introduction, analysis, and
discussion to produce a more contextualized introduction to…”
• “There is an interesting finding in this research about.... However, there is insufficient
discussion of exactly what this finding means and what its implications are.”
• “This discussion could be enlarged to explain…”
• “The authors could strengthen the paper by…”
• “The paper would be significantly improved with the addition of more details about…”
• “The abstract is very lengthy and goes into detailed accounts that are best suited for the
article’s main discussion sections. As such, it is suggested the section is reduced in size and
that only the most important elements remain.”RQG Handbook The Journal of Genealogy and Family History
Page 91 of 91
• “To make this paper publishable the author needs to respond to the following substantive
When linguistic alterations are required
• “This paper would benefit from some closer proof reading. It includes numerous linguistic
errors (e.g. agreement of verbs) that at times make it difficult to follow. I would suggest that
it may be useful to engage a professional English language editor following a restructure of
the paper.”
• “The paper would benefit from making stylistic changes in the way it has been written to make
a stronger, clearer, and more compelling argumentative case.”
• “There are a few sentences that require rephrasing for clarity.