Guidelines for Reviewers

Psychology of Violence®

By Sherry Hamby, October 2011

Several reviewers have requested guidelines for preparing Psychology of Violence® reviews. In general, the review process for Psychology of Violence is similar to most other academic journals. Psychology of Violence uses APA's online manuscript submission system which has places for a narrative review and several structured ratings. These are described in more detail below.

Most Psychology of Violence reviewers are experienced researchers and reviewers. This guide is primarily designed for people who would like specific information about the set-up of the APA online review system, or for less experienced reviewers who would like to learn more about the general standards in the field and the specific procedures at Psychology of Violence.

The peer review process relies on thoughtful, rigorous reviews. We are fortunate in that the vast majority of reviews the journal receives are balanced, constructive, and appropriately identify the main strengths and weaknesses of a manuscript. In addition to publishing your own work, providing reviews to other scholars is one important avenue for influencing the field and maximizing the quality of violence research.

General Standards for the Review Process

It is important to maintain a constructive tone. Regardless of whether the manuscript remains under further consideration at Psychology of Violence, the ultimate goal of the peer review process is to improve the overall level of science in the field. Hopefully, even when manuscripts are rejected, authors will find the comments useful to their future work. It is helpful to note strengths as well as weaknesses.

One goal of Psychology of Violence is to increase communication among violence subdisciplines. Increasing the relevance of manuscripts across subdisciplines of violence and ensuring that research in one violence subdiscipline takes advantage of the insights obtained in others are primary goals of Psychology of Violence. Thus, it is not unusual that at least one reviewer is solicited who specializes in a related, but not identical, topic. This extends to disciplinary backgrounds as well, both within and outside psychology. It is possible to make a valuable contribution to the review process by focusing on your areas of expertise. It is not an expectation that each reviewer will be expert in every aspect of a study's content and methodology.

Please note it is not necessary to include your publication recommendation in the narrative. It is preferable to limit your specific publication recommendations to the "Overall Recommendation" and the "Comments for Editor Only" sections. There are often differences of opinion among reviewers — sometimes wide ones. Sometimes there are inconsistencies even within a single review.

For example, it is not uncommon for a review to identify many serious issues with a manuscript, but still give a recommendation that includes the option to submit a revision. It is the job of the action editor to reconcile the varying points of view and make a final decision regarding suitability for revision and eventual publication.

There are usually numerous acceptable methodological and statistical choices. Authors need not have conducted the study, or analyzed the data, in the same way that you or other researchers would have. A plurality of approaches benefits the field.

Violence is a sensitive topic, and particular attention to the adequacy of the operationalization of violence and other constructs that are socially underdesirable and/or difficult to disclose is especially important for Psychology of Violence manuscripts.

Regarding several areas of violence research that focus on controversial issues or where consensus has not been achieved, Psychology of Violence strives to maintain a balanced perspective and also to provide people with a variety of opinions the opportunity to make their case. This applies to the choice of reviewers as well as to other aspects of the handling of manuscripts.

Psychology of Violence has limited pages available. Ideally, manuscripts will be long enough to present sufficient scientific detail, including sufficient presentation of the rationale and implications, but no longer.

We request reviews within 30 days to minimize response time to authors. This is the standard APA time frame. Keeping publication delays to a minimum promotes dissemination of findings and hence the advancement of science; minimizing the response time for decision letters is a key aspect of this. Keeping response times to a minimum also helps us attract stronger manuscripts.

Training the next generation of researchers is an essential function. It is usually permissible to involve graduate students as co-reviewers. Per APA policy, please get permission from the action editor before inviting a student to co-review a particular manuscript.

The Elements of a Review

Narrative Comments

The main part of the review is detailed narrative comments. The typical Psychology of Violence review ranges from a couple of paragraphs to a few pages of narrative that includes specific feedback for the authors. It is common for reviews to be organized in the order of the manuscript. Some reviewers prefer to organize their reviews from what they consider to be the most to least important comments. Either organization is acceptable. Authors often find it helpful if the comments are numbered, so they are more easily referred to in their cover letter explaining how they have revised the manuscript.

Narrative comments are shared with authors.

Structured Ratings

The APA online manuscript system will request several ratings, on a 5-point scale from Low to High, of different manuscript attributes. Examples include "Quality of Research (Design and Analysis)" and "Contribution of New Knowledge."

Structured ratings are not shared with authors.

Overall Recommendation

Psychology of Violence uses the following recommendation categories:

  • Accept As Is: This is generally reserved for manuscripts that have been through one or more revisions. It is important that manuscripts be as strong as possible, both in terms of the science and the clarity of presentation. Virtually every manuscript has room for improvement. "Accept As Is" is an extremely rare initial decision.
  • Revise & Resubmit, Pending Minor Specific Revision: Minor, specific revision refers to less extensive edits, such as clarifying points or elaborating on implications.

    Questions about the adequacy of the rationale, the suitability of the measures, or the soundness of the statistical approach are seldom minor.

    "Minor specific" also usually implies that there are only a few remaining issues to be addressed. Your review will be compiled with others who are likely to raise different points, so if you have identified many points to address (certainly 10 or more), then it is unlikely to fall into the "minor specific" category.
  • Revise & Resubmit, With Strong Encouragement to Revise: This recommendation is appropriate for a strong manuscript, with clear potential to advance our knowledge, but that needs some issues addressed. None of these issues, however, are likely to dramatically change the results or interpretation of the data.
  • Reject With Option to Resubmit: This option is for manuscripts that have potential to make a novel contribution, but require more substantive revisions in order to fully evaluate the science. Recommendations for a substantially different analytical approach typically fall into this category, as a re-analysis of the data might cast the results in a very different light. This is also appropriate for papers that provide incomplete descriptions of one or more measures, if the adequacy of the operationalization cannot be determined.
  • Reject: This option is for manuscripts that have limited potential to contribute to the literature. This could be due to insurmountable sampling or measurement problems (statistical problems are potentially more "fixable"). It can also be due to the limited scope of the study, especially if that seems to indicate a piecemeal approach to publication (for example, focusing on only 2 or 3 variables from a larger dataset that could potentially provide a more comprehensive analysis).

    Although of course no author hopes to receive a "reject" decision, rejection does serve several important purposes. Principally, these decisions help to maintain high standards of scientific rigor. Psychology of Violence, like most APA journals, is a selective journal and "reject" is the most common initial editorial decision. Psychology of Violence strives to be a forum for integrative work that clearly advances our existing knowledge. Hopefully, reject decisions will also help researchers design future studies or give them ideas about how to strengthen their submission for another outlet.

The overall recommendation is not shared with authors.

Comments for Editor Only

This section is optional. Reviewers often use this space to state more succinctly and informally their overall take on a manuscript. Sometimes, if they feel there is an element of the method or statistical analyses that is beyond their expertise, they note that here.

As the name implies, Comments for Editor Only are not shared with authors.

Preparing a Review

There are an almost infinite number of issues that might be raised in a review, but some of the most commonly mentioned concerns involve the following:

Empirical papers need to establish how the current manuscript builds on existing work (including the most recent work) and especially how the current manuscript will make a novel contribution to the field. Beyond this, it is not necessary, nor is there room in a manuscript, to provide detailed literature reviews in a paper presenting new data.

The introduction needs to provide a specific rationale for including the main variables under study.

Literature reviews and theoretical papers should also clearly indicate how the synthesis will advance the field.

Regarding the methodology, one of the most important issues is to focus on the adequacy of the operationalization of the constructs. High quality measurement is essential. No amount of sophisticated statistical analyses can make up for problematic measures or flawed sampling procedures.

Statistics need to be clearly justified and explained, and appropriate for testing the hypotheses. The APA Publication Manual presents specific standards for a variety of statistical tests.

The purpose of discussions is not to simply re-cap results, but to put the findings in the context of prior literature, acknowledge limitations of the current study, and suggest specific implications for future research and applications to prevention, intervention, or policy.

Please note that Psychology of Violence has several style requirements. The editor's letter will also make mention of these, but you may find it helpful to know that the following are always requested:

  • Psychology of Violence uses structured abstracts divided into the following sections, with headings: Objective, Method, Results, and Conclusions. The Objective should clearly communicate the novel contribution of this manuscript. In the Conclusion, please identify at least one specific implication and avoid boilerplate language such as "Implications will be discussed." Target length is 200 words.
  • A statement that clearly describes the study's purpose at the end of the first paragraph.
  • 4 to 5 keywords for all manuscripts.
  • The Introduction needs to end with numbered statements of hypotheses or research purposes, and these need to be explicitly revisited in the Results and Discussion.
  • Number of items, response categories, alpha, and scoring need to be presented for all measures. Validity should be addressed.
  • The Discussion needs formal sections for Limitations, Research Implications, and Clinical and Policy Implications.