Skip to main content

The characteristics of peer reviewers who produce good-quality reviews


Objective: To determine the characteristics of good peer reviewers.Design: Cross-sectional analysis of data gathered during a randomized controlled trial.

Setting: The Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Participants: 226 reviewers of 131 consecutively submitted manuscripts of original research. 201 (91%) completed the review and submitted a curriculum vitae.

Measurements and main results: The quality of each review was judged on a scale from 1 to 5 by an editor who was blinded to the identity of the reviewer. Reviewer characteristics were taken from the curricula vitae. 86 of the 201 reviewers (43%) produced good reviews (a grade of 4 or 5). Using logistic regression, the authors found that when a reviewer was less than 40 years old, from a top academic institution, well known to the editor choosing the reviewer, and blinded to the identity of the manuscript’s authors, the probability that he or she would produce a good review was 87%, whereas a reviewer without any of these characteristics had a 7% probability of producing a good review. Other characteristics that were significant only on bivariate analysis included previous clinical research training, additional postgraduate degrees, and more time spent on the review. There was a negative but statistically nonsignificant association between academic rank and review quality: 37% of full professors, 39% of associate professors, and 51% of assistant professors or fellows produced good reviews (p=0.11).

Conclusions: Good peer reviewers for this journal tended to be young, from strong academic institutions, well known to the editors, and blinded to the identity of the manuscript’s authors.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. McNutt RA, Evans AT, Fletcher RH, Fletcher SW. The effects of blinding on the quality of peer review: a randomized trial. JAMA. 1990;263:1371–6.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Stossel TP. Reviewer status and review quality: experience of theJournal of Clinical Investigation. N Engl J Med. 1985;312:658–9.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Lock S. A Difficult Balance: Editorial Peer Review in Medicine. Philadelphia: ISI Press, 1986;1–38, 121–32.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Honig WM. Peer review in the physical sciences: an editor’s view. Behav Brain Sci. 1982;5:207–8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Gardner MJ, Machin D, Campbell MJ. Use of check lists in assessing the statistical content of medical studies. BMJ. 1986;292:810–2.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Evans, A.T., Mcnutt, R.A., Fletcher, S.W. et al. The characteristics of peer reviewers who produce good-quality reviews. J Gen Intern Med 8, 422–428 (1993).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Key words

  • peer reviewers
  • manuscript review