Guidelines


Reviewer Guidelines

We thank our reviewers sincerely and profusely for their unpaid labour.
The journal relies entirely on your kind support.

The most important consideration for reviewers is the remit of the journal:

The remit of the journal is to publish any empirical or theoretical paper that is relevant to the field of language development and that meets our criteria for rigour, without regard to the perceived novelty or importance of the findings. Relevance to the field of language development (typical and atypical, mono-, bi- and multi-lingual) is broadly construed so as to include, for example, studies of second language learning (or artificial language learning) in older children or adults, studies of nonhuman animals, computational modelling studies, studies or theories of the adult endpoint etc., provided that they are relevant to the issue of language development.

In order to determine whether a submission meets the journal's criteria for rigour, reviewers should consult the Statistics and Methods guidelines on the journal website. We would also request that, for papers that contain quantitative statistical analyses, reviewers assess the paper against the journal's Statistics checklist. Queries should be directed to the journal's statistics consultant, Seamus Donnelly (https://psychology.anu.edu.au/people/academics/dr-seamus-donnelly).

Functions of peer review

The primary function of peer review is to act as a “stamp of approval” on published papers. This does not mean, of course, that reviewers/action editors agree with the conclusions of a paper, or are confident that any empirical findings will replicate. It simply means that, in their view, the paper is free from serious errors of methodology, analysis or reasoning that would call into question its main conclusions, and that the authors have reported their work transparently, mentioning relevant limitations.

A secondary function of peer review is to improve the paper. For example, reviewers may request that authors include important omitted references that are relevant to the goals of the paper, rewrite sections that are unclear, give more details about a particular experimental or analysis method etc. Reviewers should take care not to suggest changes that are matters of mere personal preference, but only those that – in their judgment – would result in a clearer paper. Reviewers should show restraint when suggesting additional (non-pregregistered) analyses, since each additional analysis increases the probability of spurious results. Reviewers should also show restraint when suggesting additional experimental work, which can be prohibitively costly for the authors: No single study, or set of studies, is definitive, and it will almost always be the case that further studies would help to clarify the picture. However, unless the conclusions of the paper are undermined without them, additional studies should normally be reserved for future papers, and not insisted upon by reviewers.

For selective, commercial journals, a function of peer review is to help Editors and Action Editors to select for publication only papers that meet some threshold for novelty, innovation, likely citation rate etc. Given the remit of Language Development Research to “publish any empirical or theoretical paper that is relevant to the field of language development and that meets our criteria for rigour, without regard to the perceived novelty or importance of the findings” this function does not apply. Relevance to the field will be determined largely by the initial screening process (though reviewers are free to offer the opinion that a paper is not relevant to the field). The job of peer reviewers for this journal is largely to help the Action Editor assess the extent to which the paper meets our criteria for rigour.

Structure of a review

Length

In most cases, the optimal length for a first review is 1-2 pages (single spaced). Reviews that are considerably shorter often lack detail regarding exactly what changes the author is suggesting. Reviews that are considerably longer often overstep the line that divides improving the paper from rewriting the paper on the authors’ behalf. That said, this is clearly just a rule of thumb, and longer or shorter reviews will be entirely appropriate in many cases. The second (or subsequent) review of a paper will typically be much shorter, simply summarizing whether or not any changes suggested in the previous round have been made satisfactorily. In some cases, one or more of the original reviewers is not available, and the Action Editor will invite one or more new reviewers for the revised paper. In such cases, new reviewers should focus primarily on assessing whether the points made in the first round of revisions have been dealt with satisfactorily, and not request additional changes unless the scientific merit of the paper would be seriously compromised without them.

Introduction

Most reviewers start with a brief summary of the paper. This is generally helpful, as it allows the authors, reviewers and Action Editor to check that everyone is on the same page with regard to the main goals, findings and conclusions of the paper. This can normally be accomplished in just a single paragraph of a few sentences.

Recommendation

Next reviewers should give a summary of their recommendation – a) accept, (b) revise and resubmit: minor revisions, (c) revise and resubmit: major revisions, (d) reject outright – and a brief justification. Given our commitment to transparency, Language Development Research encourages reviewers to make explicit recommendations of this type in the body of their review (note that some other journals discourage or prohibit reviewers from making explicit recommendations of this type).

Major issues

Next, reviewers should detail the major issues that justify their recommendation. Where these constitute problems of methods, analyses, reasoning etc., reviewers should give some indication of the seriousness of the problem, and how it should be addressed. For example, a reviewer might raise an underlying theoretical or methodological problem that they feel is sufficient to merit outright rejection, because it would not be possible to address the problem without redoing the work from scratch. More commonly, a reviewer might raise a problem that would merit rejection were it not addressed, but that can be addressed by a new statistical analysis or the addition of a control group. Reviewers should be mindful here of the burden on researchers, and suggest additional analyses or testing only when the conclusions of the study are undermined without them, not when they would be merely helpful, useful or interesting. In many cases a reviewer will raise a problem that is relatively serious, and cannot be meaningfully addressed with a new analysis etc., but that can be simply acknowledged in the text, and left for future research (i.e., in a new paper) to address.

Minor issues

Next, reviewers should detail issues that have little or no bearing on their recommendation per se, but that should be addressed in the interests of improving the paper. These might include lack of citations of key papers in the area, insufficient detail regarding an experimental or analysis method etc.

Reframing

Historically, it has not been uncommon for reviewers and/or Action Editors to suggest that the authors “reframe” a study, rewriting the Introduction to set-up hypotheses that were, in fact, formulated only after seeing the data. However, there is increasing recognition that so-called HARKing (hypothesizing after results are known) contributes to publication bias, and so should be discouraged by reviewers and Action Editors. To be clear, it will sometimes be appropriate for reviewers to request a very limited number of new analyses, including to test theoretical positions that were not mentioned in the submitted version of the paper. However, authors must be explicit regarding which analyses were planned in advance, and which were added after seeing the data.

Writing quality

If the overall standard of written English is low, reviewers should make it clear exactly what needs to be done to reach publishable standard: Does the paper just need a careful proofread, or does almost every sentence need to be rewritten? Reviewers should refrain from suggesting that authors request the help of a native English speaker, since not all highly-proficient writers of academic English are native speakers,  and vice versa. Rather, authors whose papers are deemed insufficient with regard to the quality of written English (whether at the review stage or at the Editor’s screening stage) should decide for themselves what remedial action to take, which may include using a commercial service or software product (e.g., Grammarly).

Proofreading

Most commercial journals employ professional proofreaders, meaning that there is no need for reviewers to list typos. However, since Language Development Research has no budget to employ proofreaders, the journal would greatly appreciate reviewers listing all typos that they spot (except for passages of text that are likely to be removed or entirely rewritten as a result of requested major revisions). However, this is by no means a requirement for reviewers; ultimately, authors are responsible for their own proofreading.

Delegation of reviews

In normal circumstances, reviewers who have agreed to review a manuscript must review the manuscript themselves. However, reviewers may, with the advance permission of the Action Editor, involve a trainee (e.g., PhD student) in the reviewing processes, provided that they are willing to certify that they have carefully reviewed both the manuscript and the review, and will take responsibility for the final content of reviews.

Deadline for reviews

Reviewers are asked to complete their review within 30 days, with automatic reminders sent at 23, 30 and 50 days. If a reviewer has not submitted their review, or contacted the journal to request an extension, within 60 days, the reviewer is deemed to have withdrawn, and the Action Editor will invite a replacement.

Copyright in reviews

Reviewers own the copyright in their own reviews and are not required to transfer copyright to the journal, or to publish them under a CC-BY license. Consequently, authors of submitted manuscripts may not publish the reviews they receive, and may be in violation of copyright law if they do so


Post-publication review

Readers of published articles are invited to use the PubPeer website at https://pubpeer.com/ to offer post-publication review/commentary, to which authors are encouraged (but not required) to respond. Readers are also encouraged to install the PubPeer browser plugin, which displays comments when readers are viewing articles on the Language Development Research journal website. Another route for post-publication review is via a Letter to the Editor, which will be considered for publication following the same process as any submission. Alternatively, a request for correction, revision or retraction can be made via the journal’s dedicated procedure.