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Do the hypotheses follow logically from previous work? To what extent does the Discussion place the findings in a wider context and achieve a balance between interpretation and useful speculation versus tedious waffling? (Then, throughout, if what I am reading is only partly comprehensible, I do not spend a lot of energy trying to make sense of it, but in my review I will relay the ambiguities to the author.) I should also have a good idea of the hypothesis and context within the first few pages, and it matters whether the hypothesis makes sense or is interesting. I do not focus so much on the statistics—a quality journal should have professional statistics review for any accepted manuscript—but I consider all the other logistics of study design where it’s easy to hide a fatal flaw.Mostly I am concerned with credibility: Could this methodology have answered their question?Then, right in the Introduction, you can often recognize whether the authors considered the full context of their topic.
So accepting an invitation for me is the default, unless a paper is really far from my expertise or my workload doesn’t allow it.
Having said that, I tend to define my expertise fairly broadly for reviewing purposes. I am more willing to review for journals that I read or publish in.
Before I became an editor, I used to be fairly eclectic in the journals I reviewed for, but now I tend to be more discerning, since my editing duties take up much of my reviewing time.
For every manuscript of my own that I submit to a journal, I review at least a few papers, so I give back to the system plenty.
I've heard from some reviewers that they're more likely to accept an invitation to review from a more prestigious journal and don't feel as bad about rejecting invitations from more specialized journals.