Feedback: To Help the Author or Show Off What the Reviewer Knows?

checkmark imagesAll of us in academia are subject to the peer-review process. I (Clare) was revising a book chapter this past weekend and although rewriting is not pleasant, this time it was not a hard slog. The two reviewers provided sensible advice – give an example to clarify this point; please round out the point in this paragraph; connect the two tables … Their feedback was to improve the piece. This has been a good experience because the chapter is definitely clearer and more compelling. But this experience is not typical of the “peer review” feedback process. Far too many times I have had feedback that left me shaking my head. We submitted a paper to a journal and the feedback was a 3 page rant on the limits of a grounded theory method (which was appropriate for a study of literacy teacher educators’ experiences). What was the point of the feedback from someone who was clearly a quantitative researcher? Another time the feedback on a grant proposal which was studying teachers’ use of a digital technology – how their pedagogy and identity changed (or did not change) — was so off-base. The reviewer wanted us to include data on the children’s (student’s) use of technology in their personal lives. That is a different study. So why do reviewers provide comments that are not relevant or connected to the actual piece in hand? Did they not actually read it? Are they trying to show off what they know? (The latter is a bit ironic since the review is anonymous!)

I do not have answers to these questions. I would like to thank the reviewers who take the time (and park their ego at the door) to provide useful advice.

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