Then I look at how convincing the results are and how careful the description is. The parts of the Discussion I focus on most are context and whether the authors make claims that overreach the data. I want statements of fact, not opinion or speculation, backed up by data.
Most journals don't have special instructions, so I just read the paper, usually starting with the Abstract, looking at the figures, and then reading the paper in a linear fashion.
The responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
I consider four factors: whether I'm sufficiently knowledgeable about the topic to offer an intelligent assessment, how interesting I find the research topic, whether I’m free of any conflict of interest, and whether I have the time.
I'm more prone to agree to do a review if it involves a system or method in which I have a particular expertise.
And I'm not going to take on a paper to review unless I have the time.As junior scientists develop their expertise and make names for themselves, they are increasingly likely to receive invitations to review research manuscripts.It’s an important skill and service to the scientific community, but the learning curve can be particularly steep.For every manuscript of my own that I submit to a journal, I review at least a few papers, so I give back to the system plenty.I've heard from some reviewers that they're more likely to accept an invitation to review from a more prestigious journal and don't feel as bad about rejecting invitations from more specialized journals.If the answer to all four questions is yes, then I’ll usually agree to review.I am very open-minded when it comes to accepting invitations to review.The only other factor I pay attention to is the scientific integrity of the journal.I would not want to review for a journal that does not offer an unbiased review process.Unless it’s for a journal I know well, the first thing I do is check what format the journal prefers the review to be in.Some journals have structured review criteria; others just ask for general and specific comments. I almost never print out papers for review; I prefer to work with the electronic version.