Sunday, July 8, 2012

My First Experience with Peer Review

It is always exciting when the same old job you have had for years suddenly provides you with an opportunity to try something new.  During the past several months, I have enjoyed my first experience writing a peer-reviewed journal article.

A colleague recommended that I submit more ambitiously for my first try and then try less ambitious journals if that didn't work out, and his advice made sense so I followed it.  I submitted it to a slightly more prestigious journal first (although still rated way, way below the likes of JAMA) and was not at all surprised by my prompt rejection form letter.  After all, I openly acknowledge that I don’t know what I am doing and I had suspected that this was a long shot.

I am grateful now that I received a form letter—later, that same colleague informed me that he occasionally receives personally written rejection letters with nasty descriptions of how worthless the rejected paper is.  A form letter was a much more comfortable kind of rejection.

I immediately revised the paper to meet the guidelines of another journal that was less prestigious but, in my uninformed opinion, a better fit for my study and was thrilled by my prompt acceptance pending revision.

Of course, then I read the full peer review comments and realized that they meant a lot of revision: lots and lots, essentially a rewrite.  But I thank these anonymous people.  Their comments were right on; they agreed with me that my study was interesting and unique and worthy of sharing with the rest of the world; they also noticed, accurately, that I didn't really know how to write a journal article and needed some coaching.  Whoever these peers were, they were smart people.  Their suggestions were good.  In some instances, they actually came out and said, "say this instead..." More often, they told me to do some more research and report some analysis I hadn't previously thought to include or asked me to write out details that I already knew but had neglected to write out in the earlier draft.  I am so glad they recognized my paper's potential and gave me a chance to fix it up.

By the time I was done incorporating their revisions, I actually felt like I had a good paper.  Thank you, anonymous peer people!   I resubmitted the paper, it was fully accepted and I was told that I would receive a proof of the final print version for review within two weeks.

But I still hadn't received it two months later.  I inquired a couple times and was told that they had not yet chosen a publication date for my article and that they would send it to me as soon as that was settled.

Finally, I emailed and told them that I would be leaving work on maternity leave soon and asked if I should get them in contact with someone else who could review the proof if it was completed during my absence.  My proof showed up immediately thereafter!  I have a question for you more experienced journal article writers out there: is this the traditional way to get a proof?  How does one get a proof when one doesn't happen to be pregnant?

Of course, my proof was still missing one important element: the date of publication.  Hmm.  What personal life event do I need to come up with to get that?


  1. I just like finding out that you are being published! Very cool. Which journal? What is the topic of your paper? When can I read it? ;)

  2. Answer 1: Journal of Public Health Management and Practice

    Answer 2: It is a study about Utah Pacific Islander health

    Answer 3: Good question! I am wondering if I will ever get a publication date...