4 of 6 - Your Questions - Peer Review Toolbox
Starting the conversation / The personal side of getting started as a peer reviewer
‘How to become a peer reviewer?’ is a common question among Toolbox readers, conference attendees, and people emailing the journals. We’ve talked a little about getting started in peer review in past issues and on the PLOS Reviewer Center. Today, we’d like to delve a little deeper into one of the most personal strategies for securing invitations: contacting an editor.
Is it really okay for me to contact editors
without an invitation?
Got questions of your own about peer review? Email us or complete this form.
On the importance of getting in contact
We get it. Meeting new people is hard. And it can be especially challenging to take the initiative and reach out to someone you admire, like a journal editor or a prestigious author. Professional networking is also an important skill, and part of becoming an active participant in your community of research.
Contacting an editor
When you read a published paper that represents the type of work you’d like to review, note down the name and affiliation of the editor who handled it. A quick online search can provide you with contact details. Contact the editor with a short message expressing your admiration of the paper. Briefly describe your expertise and state your willingness to review any similar papers they might handle in future.
How do editors feel about volunteer reviewers?
It’s becoming increasingly challenging for editors to find available reviewers, and most appreciate volunteers interested in the work they do. In a quick informal poll of the PLOS ONE Editorial Board Members, 59% said they find it helpful when researchers contact them to volunteer as reviewers, with another 29% saying that it can be helpful in some cases.
What to watch out for
A couple best-practice guidelines to keep in mind–
Know your editor. Don’t send the same general letter to a long list of editors. Pick just one or two people who handle manuscripts in your particular area of interest.
Be brief. Editors are busy, so you’ll want to convey as much information as you can in a focused, clear way. Try to keep each main point to about a paragraph.
Consider your audience. When writing to an editor, focus on what you have to offer, rather than on what you hope to gain. Yes, peer reviewing can be a great opportunity for professional growth--but editors choose reviewers for what they bring to the assessment process, not the other way around.


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