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Reviewing for TCR Online: Reviewing New Forms

by Gary Natriello - September 13, 2000

The challenge of reviewing new kinds of articles.

One of the most important and least appreciated tasks in academic scholarship is reviewing the papers submitted to journals. Good reviewers provide guidance to authors to improve their manuscripts and additional perspectives for editors to aid final decisions regarding publication. The enterprise of publishing academic journals rests on the work of peer reviewers whose efforts go unrewarded, if not unrecognized.

At tcr we have benefited enormously from the work of our editorial board and the other experts who provide reviews of the hundreds of papers submitted each year. So it is with some hesitation that I ask our reviewers, including those among our readers who have never reviewed, to step up their reviewing efforts by reviewing the new material being submitted to tcr Online. We have decided to use the traditional external peer review process initially for two kinds of pieces we plan to publish, commentaries and research notes. Although we are using a traditional model of peer review, reviewing submissions for online publication places several additional demands on reviewers.

Reviewing New Forms

First, both the commentaries and the research notes being submitted to tcr for online publication are different in form than papers traditionally published in our print journal. These new forms of reporting on scholarship in education require careful thought by both authors and reviewers if we are to build a collection of materials that advances the field. Both the commentaries and the research notes are forms of writing that have been employed in print journals in the past, but both are likely to change in significant ways as they are adapted to the online environment.

The commentaries allow authors far greater latitude in expressing their opinions than our print journal articles, and reviewers must work with the editorial staff to hone the criteria we will use to produce a journal with first rate commentary as a major component. To guide the review process for commentaries we have identified five questions we hope reviewers will ask about each piece they review:

  • Is the topic important to the community of scholars in education?
  • Does the piece contribute to the diversity of opinion in TCR?
  • Is the analysis solid, not just making assertions, but providing solid reasoning?
  • Is the position well drawn?
  • Is the writing strong?

These questions reflect traditional criteria for judging written work, but the emphasis given to each may shift for the online world. For example, strong writing and well drawn positions may assume greater prominence for materials to be read online where the competition for readers’ immediate time and attention is greater than in the print world. As both reviewers and the editorial team gain more experience reviewing and publishing commentaries we anticipate that these questions will be refined, but for now they provide an initial set of criteria to judge the materials submitted.

Research notes in tcr Online will be far shorter and typically cover narrower topics than the lengthy articles in our print journal. Many of us have some idea of what research notes for traditional experimental studies might be because the research note has been a genre used by academic journals focusing on experimental techniques of investigation. However, because scholarship in education has expanded to encompass a wide variety of methods including historical, narrative, and descriptive studies we anticipate that tcr will publish research notes reflecting all of these methods. It is less clear how such research notes will be structured, and we await the development of appropriate models from leading scholars. Initially, we have developed the following set of questions to guide the review of materials submitted as research notes:

  • Is the topic important to the community of scholars in education?
  • Is the report solidly oriented to the presentation of empirical data or the explication of a key concept in educational research?
  • Does the report describe exemplary research practice?
  • Does the report include solid analysis, not just a presentation of data?
  • Does the report provide an opportunity for other scholars to learn?
  • Does the report deal with an issue or finding in its entirety, not just a partial presentation?

These questions are also likely to evolve as we gain experience publishing research notes over the next year.

For both commentaries and research notes we anticipate that a unique tcr approach will develop over time. In the past more than a few reviewers have rejected papers under review for the print journal with a phrase such as “This does not quite rise to the level of a Record article,” or “This paper may be publishable elsewhere, but it does not seem appropriate for the Record.” There is considerable consensus about just what a “Record article” means. As we begin publishing commentaries and research notes online we will have to develop a new consensus about just what a tcr commentary or research note might be. Until we do both reviewers and the editorial team will be working together to form such a consensus.

Next Week: Reviewing Online

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: September 13, 2000
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10398, Date Accessed: 1/21/2022 10:18:43 AM

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About the Author
  • Gary Natriello
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    E-mail Author
    Gary Natriello is Professor of Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University and the editor of the Teachers College Record.
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