Peer Review Process
Articles that appear in Interpreter are required to undergo a peer-review process before they are accepted for publication, with some exceptions described below. A submission is initially evaluated by an Interpreter editor in order to determine if it is generally appropriate for consideration. (For instance, a submission may not be suited for Interpreter’s audience or consistent with our mission statement.)
If the editor feels that the paper should be peer reviewed, he or she determines the expertise areas required of the reviewers and how many reviewers should be utilized. Peer review can be done by as few as one reviewer or as many as five; most papers are reviewed by either two or three subject-matter experts. The editor identifies potential reviewers, contacts them to request their assistance, tracks their work, and evaluates the reviews as they are completed.
Interpreter utilizes a double-blind peer-review system in as many instances as possible. This means that the author does not know the names of those who review the paper and the reviewers do not know the name of the paper’s author. At an editor’s discretion, and on a case-by-case basis, an article may only undergo a single-blind peer review. (This is a peer review where a reviewer may know the name of the author, but the author still is unaware of who the reviewer is.) For instance, it makes very little sense to do a double-blind peer review on a paper that is expanded from a previously published article or is based on a public presentation by the author.
Reviewers do their work concurrently and are not aware if anyone else (or who else) is reviewing a paper. We generally give reviewers a one-month window in which to do their review, but this can vary based on many variables.
When all reviewers complete their work, the editor uses the reviewers’ comments to determine if the paper is accepted for publication. Further, if reviewers’ comments are positive in the aggregate, those comments are passed on to the author to revise the paper according to the comments received. (Before written comments are passed to the author, any identifying information is removed from those comments; that is the nature of a blind peer-review system.)
There are a small number of articles appearing in the Interpreter that are not peer reviewed. For instance, it makes little sense to arrange a peer review for a first-person essay, such as those that may appear in Interpreter around Christmas or Easter. In addition, book reviews may be evaluated solely by the Interpreter book review committee, although some may also go through a more formal peer review process depending on scope and approach.
Where the central idea of the paper has merit but the paper itself requires extensive rework, an editor or reviewer may be assigned to work closely with the author to bring the expression of the idea to adequate maturity and clarity for publication. We see the mentoring of new authors to increase the breadth and depth of Latter-day Saint scholarship as an essential aspect of our mission.
Peer Reviewer Qualifications
Those asked to review papers submitted to Interpreter have expertise in one or more areas related to the topic covered in the paper. Thus, if a paper has to do with Old Testament scholarship, the reviewers will have expertise in that subject area. If a paper requires expertise in multiple areas, then we generally employ more reviewers, each with a different expertise area.
The expertise possessed by reviewers can cover a wide range of disciplines, and are not limited solely to the relatively narrow niche of Mormon studies. Over the years we have used professional historians, psychologists, chemists, engineers, religion professors, linguists, archaeologists, and experts from many other disciplines do peer review.
Reviewers are generally of the LDS faith, but are not required to be. It is required that the reviewer not be hostile to LDS truth claims and that they are supportive of the Interpreter Foundation’s mission statement. Quite honestly, most reviewers are LDS simply because the majority of non-LDS scholars don’t have the source-level expertise required to provide a peer review of LDS-oriented scholarship.
Peer Reviewer Guidelines
When a reviewer agrees to perform a peer review, they are sent, along with the submission, guidelines to assist them in performing their work. The following are the guidelines as they are typically provided:
As a reviewer it would be a good idea to make sure you are familiar with our submission guidelines. (This makes sense, since an author should follow those guidelines when submitting items to us.) Our submission guidelines are detailed at this web page.
Note, in particular, that the guidelines indicate “submissions should be congruent with Interpreter’s mission statement.” You can find our mission statement here. According to the mission statement, the following are acceptable for publication in Interpreter as either articles or essays:
- Submissions that increase understanding of scriptures.
- Submissions that increase understanding of early LDS history.
- Submissions that advocate the authenticity and historicity of LDS scriptures.
- Submissions that advocate the authenticity and historicity of the Restoration.
- Submissions that represent a scholarly response to critics.
Please note that the submission you are reviewing may meet only one of these criteria, but may meet more than one. (This is quite common.) In meeting these criteria, it is important to understand that “increasing understanding” (indeed, any of the criteria) means that a submission is acceptable to Interpreter if it (A) breaks new ground or (B) makes existing scholarly information more accessible to the layman reader.
When you start your review, please open the attached document in Microsoft Word and turn on the Track Changes feature. (This is accessible through the Review tab of the ribbon.) This ensures that your edits and/or comments are visible to those who will work with the document after you.
As you do your review, you are welcome to mark problems with the prose, such as misspellings or improper punctuation, but these should not be the focus of your review. There will be editors, working at a later stage, who should catch these types of problems. Instead, your review should focus on matters more holistic. For instance, is the submission clear, concise, focused, consistent, and organized? Does the author engage in any logical fallacies? Does the submission utilize or engage with current scholarship? Are there any gaping holes in the arguments or evidence presented in the submission? It is in these (and similar) areas where your expertise can help ensure the strength of what Interpreter ultimately publishes.
We try very hard to ensure a “blind review,” meaning that authors don’t discover who reviews their papers. Thus, while any comments you make may be passed on to the author of the submission, any identifying information is removed so the author is not aware of who made the comment.
Even so, you’ll want to make sure that you are considerate and helpful in your comments. Ideally, when an author reads any comments you make, they will be able to substantially improve their paper based on those comments. (The term “constructive criticism” often comes to mind and is most appropriate when performing a peer review.) You’ll also want to consider the tone of your comments so that you don’t come across condescending, dismissive, or “snarky.”
The above guidelines are supplied so that you, as an author, can understand how reviewers will be evaluating your Interpreter submission. When you receive comments back from reviewers, it can often be difficult to view candid criticisms in a positive manner. Understand, however, that the ultimate desire is to make your paper as strong as it can be. The best way to do that is to evaluate reviewers’ comments in the spirit they are offered and make any changes to your paper as requested by your editor.