A few general principles.

Name Action
Charity Principle of Charity: Critical Thinking (Hughes, 2000)
The text, charts, tables, and figures under review are often filled with ambiguities. Always assume the most favorable interpretation as the author’s intent and analyze based on that assumption.
The reviewer’s goal is to move knowledge forward.
Sniff Test Explore as you intuitions dictate. Serendipity should be fostered.
So What? Nature magazine’s editors provide a good starting point.
The criteria for publication of scientific papers (Articles and Letters) in Nature are that they:

  • report original scientific research …
  • are of outstanding scientific importance
  • reach a conclusion of interest to an interdisciplinary readership

The Craft of Research
(Booth, Colomb, & Williams, 1995) encourages self-directed So what? questions throughout the writing process.

Bias The scientific method is based on reducing bias. The primary goal of statistical testing, peer review, replication and experimental design is the control of bias.For example: a double-blind, randomized study is the gold standard for research designs.

  • Subjects do not know which group they are in (i.e. kept blind); because we cannot trust self-reporting.
  • Researchers do not know what group the subjects are in (i.e. kept blind); because we cannot trust the researcher.
  • Subjects are randomly assigned to groups; because we cannot trust a “planned” assignment.

Reviewers need to know and counter their personal biases as they explore content for other sources of bias. See Drop Two Rocks for ancient and current bias.

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