1.5 Put yourself in your peer reviewers’ shoes as you write your paper: it will help you get it published

Many new researchers assume their research paper will be peer reviewed by the biggest expert in their field.

Yes, there may be a high-profile expert among the peer reviewers of your paper. However, it’s more likely that your paper’s peer reviewers will be middle-career researchers. That’s because the bulk of peer review of research papers is done by middle career researchers, not by senior researchers.

When writing your paper, remember that middle-career researchers are busy. They may not only be leading and managing a growing research team, but they may also be still spending their own time collecting or analyzing data. They’re also likely to have a growing number of professional commitments outside of research – such as clinical, teaching, administration or business commitments, for example. On a personal level, they tend to be at a life stage that’s often associated with greater responsibilities, such as setting up home or taking care of children or parents, for example. In short, your paper’s peer reviewers are likely to be busy, and they’ll peer review your paper when they can.

They may peer review your paper on their commute to or from work. When I (Amanda) lived in Sydney, I used to peer review papers on the train home – sometimes standing up in rush hour. The paper had to be really clear for me to understand it in those circumstances.

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Your paper’s peer reviewers may peer review your paper after they’ve gotten home from work and fed the kids…

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…bathed them…

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…and wrangled them into sleep at last (or not).

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Your paper’s peer reviewers might peer review your paper on the weekend, after their social engagements (and maybe a few drinks).

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Or they may peer review your paper very late at night, maybe over a glass of something that could further blur their comprehension of your paper.

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In brief, your paper’s peer reviewers may end up peer reviewing your paper in less-than-optimal circumstances for concentration. That’s why it’s vital that you make your paper as easy to read and understand as possible. If your peer reviewers can’t understand your paper, it’s more likely that they’ll select the ‘reject’ option and/or give your paper scathing comments in their peer review report.

As you work through this training and write your paper, remember to put yourself in your prospective peer reviewers’ shoes and sympathize with how little time and mental energy they’re likely to have to peer review your paper. Writing your paper to help them understand your paper as easily as possible will help you ultimately to get your paper published.