Guidelines for reviewers
Normally, we will ask a reviewer for a short review, short both in terms of the allotted time and in terms of the expected length of the review. The editors will have based the review time on what they perceive to be the length and technical complexity of the paper, but will work on the assumption that writing a short review for a paper should normally require a half-day of work. Given that we aim to ask for at most two reviews per year from each reviewer, someone who accepts a position on our editorial board is making a commitment to approximately one day of work per year, or slightly more if we happen to ask for extended commentary, or a review of a particularly long or technically complex paper. This is by no means a trivial commitment, and we ask editorial board members to notify us immediately if it is beyond what they can offer. One of the most important goals of the journal is to keep time from submission to publication to a minimum. With the advantages of the open access format, and the strong commitment of our editorial board to this goal, we aim for a significantly faster time-to-publication than is currently common in linguistics. Our typical time-frame is 4 weeks from the review request to when the review is due. We take this deadline very seriously and expect our reviewers to do the same; this is, frankly, different from most other journals, whose deadlines for reviewers are mostly fictional.
If you are asked for a review for S&P, consider the following three preliminary questions:
First, decide whether you think you can perform the review within the time allotted by the editor. Our review times are shorter than for other journals in the field. Please help us get good work to press rapidly: this will ultimately be in everybody’s interest.
Second, notify the editors immediately (via the website) whether you can perform the review within the time allotted. It is crucial to the editorial process that you notify the editors both in case that you can accept the review, and in case you cannot. It is quite acceptable that you will occasionally reject a review request because you are particularly busy, and the editors do not require any explanation. We would however appreciate advice regarding alternate reviewers.
Third, check whether for some reason you think it might be inappropriate to continue with the review:
- Most obviously, determine whether there is any potential conflict of interest, and notify the editors if you think there may be. A conflict of interest might occur if a reviewer is based at the same institution as an author, has been in a supervisory relationship or collaborated with an author in the recent past, has corresponded extensively with the author about earlier versions of the paper, or has a close personal relationship with an author. However, we will consider each case on its merits, asking the question: Would a reasonable person with all the relevant facts question your impartiality?
- You may feel on reflection that you do not have the right background to review the paper.
- You may judge that the standard of English is so low that the paper is a challenge to read or hard to follow. In any such case, please email the editors immediately rather than plowing on with a difficult or inappropriate review.
If you do decline to review the paper, please help us out by suggesting some alternative reviewers (the template presented by the website when declining a review includes a space to put in such recommendations).
As of January 2021, Semantics and Pragmatics has a double-anonymous review policy for all contributed submissions: Authors should refrain from identifying themselves, and reviewers should not attempt to identify the author. We follow the policy and guidelines of the journal Language, which can be found here (link to Language guidelines). We acknowledge that in some cases, you may be able to identify the author. This alone need not prevent you from carrying out the review, as long as you feel you can make an objective evaluation of the work.
If you agree to be a reviewer of this paper, please read through the paper, and in your report to us address questions A, B, and C, and optionally D, below. Note that a perfectly adequate review might be just a page long (or even shorter). Many reviewers go beyond the call of duty and provide us with editorial advice (and lists of typos and the like); that is of course appreciated but we really mean it when we say that a concise review delivered by the agreed upon deadline is all we need in the first round.
A. Estimate of overall quality
Check one of the following:
- Instant classic (with minor revision, may be among the most important publications in this field this year)
- Top 100 (with minor revision, should be among the top 100 contributions to the field of semantics/pragmatics in a typical year)
- Contains much important material which would be appropriate in S&P, but is marred by omissions or other flaws
- Contains some publishable material, but is marred by major omissions or other major flaws
- Does not contain sufficient publishable material to warrant consideration for S&P.
At the moment, we are constrained by the choices that our journal management software provides. The pull-down menu for reviewers allows the following recommendations:
- Accept submission
- Revisions required
- Resubmit for review
- Resubmit elsewhere
- Decline submission
- See comments (← preferred option)
Unless you strongly believe that you should make a specific recommendation from that list, we recommend that you choose “See comments” and simply provide us with a narrative assessment. It is the job of the editors to make a decision based on the input from multiple reviewers and their own reading of the submission.
But to give you a picture of the journal’s practices, here is how we interpret the choices offered by our software:
- Decline submission
- “Reject”. This is the most frequent decision for a journal of S&P’s standards. Some of our most enthusiastically positive feedback has come from authors of declined submissions, because of the speed of decision and the quality of editorial feedback.
There are shades depending on whether the reviewers and editors recommend submission of a substantially improved paper on the same topic. In some cases, we will warmly encourage the author to submit a thoroughly revised descendant of a rejected paper to our journal. We will ask the author whether they in fact intend to do so. If they commit themselves to doing so, the paper can be listed as “under revision for S&P” on the CV, but only within a six month period from the original editorial decision.
Unless we explicitly encourage resubmission of an improved paper, a decline will be considered final. The editor may in addition suggest other venues for publication.
- Resubmit for review
- “Revise & resubmit”. S&P is very much interested in publishing a future version of this submission, but there are substantial issues to resolve; nevertheless the editors are reasonably confident that the issues can in fact be resolved. The editorial feedback will clearly lay out what revisions are needed. The author can decide whether to attempt such revisions or withdraw the paper from consideration. A “Resubmit for review” decision is not an acceptance, not even a conditional one. The final decision may still be a rejection. The paper can be listed as “under revision for S&P” on the authors’ CV(s), but only for a six month period from the original editorial decision.
- Revisions required
- “Accept the paper but revisions are necessary”. The revisions will by and large not affect the structure of the argument and the proposed analysis, but may require substantial rewriting for expository purposes. Although in principle the author may take up to 6 months before resubmitting, the revisions required by the editors should normally amount to at most 2 weeks of work for this type of decision. We will only issue this decision if the revisions are crystal-clear to us. The revisions should be verifiable by the editors, and not normally require any further external review. If we issue such a conditional acceptance, the article can be listed on the authors’ CV(s) as “accepted pending revisions at S&P”.
- Accept submission
- “We will publish this paper as soon as possible”. Minor revisions may still be needed (e.g., fixing typos, small changes in wording, clarification of crucial examples), but those should only take a couple of hours and the paper will move into production as soon as those are done. At this point, at the very latest, we strongly encourage authors to prepare their article via our LaTeX style package. At a minimum, authors will need to follow the final submission guidelines spelled out at http://info.semprag.org/style. If we issue this decision, the article can be listed as “accepted at S&P” on the authors’ CV(s).
- Resubmit elsewhere
- This is really a variant of “Decline submission” but with helpful advice about where else the paper may find a more hospitable home.
If you do choose one of these specific recommendations, to facilitate our decision process, please avoid stating it in the comments that you make available to authors.
Please write a short justification, in broad terms, of the above estimate of overall quality (and of your explicit recommendation, if you chose to make one). Although you should feel free to explain your reaction in any way you think will be helpful, issues that you might consider include:
- Originality & Results
- Are there important new theoretical insights, important new data, perhaps a notably original synthesis of ideas from disparate fields, or new formal techniques? Does the paper substantially overlap with a separate published paper of the author? What are the major contributions this paper makes to semantics and pragmatics? Note: we would expect a pointer rather than a full explanation, e.g. “The most important contribution is the analysis of Cacgia Roglai temporal markers as dynamic generalized quantifiers.”
- Empirical quality & Technical competence
- Most (but not all) articles in will be based on empirical data. Is the evidentiary basis of this paper adequate to the theoretical conclusions reached? Are there places where the quality of the data could be improved (cross-linguistic data, naturally occurring data, corpus data, experimental data)? Are there minor or major examples of sloppiness or misunderstanding? Are there places where the argumentation should be strengthened? Would the paper be improved with new statistical analyses, proofs of claims, or worked examples demonstrating proposed techniques? Should graphs, tables, or other presentations of data be added or modified?
- Consider the background someone would need to follow the main thread of this paper, e.g. only a few specialists, most of those who give papers at major semantics conferences, most people with a few graduate level semantics courses, most people who’ve taken a graduate level introduction to semantics and pragmatics, or perhaps any smart educated person with access to a search engine could follow the main thread. And if this is the population that could follow the main thread, are there nonetheless parts of the paper that are much more demanding? Might minor changes substantially increase the potential audience?
- Quality of prose
- Is the paper stylish, clear, and concise? Is it unclear in places, but probably repairable by the author? Could the prose be repaired by a native English speaker who has no special training in semantics and pragmatics, or would rewriting require both the author and probably also outside help of a native English speaker?
- Contextualization of research
- Are the main research questions contextualized in terms of earlier related work? Does the paper adequately cite related work? Could the impact of the paper be improved through modifications that would show the relevance of the results to future work in the same or other fields?
Optional comments for the author. (You may just note that it would be acceptable to share your answer in C, or you may provide no commentary at all for the author’s eyes, although we encourage such feedback.)
S&P welcomes various shorter contributions (squibs, commentaries, remarks and replies, reviews, state of the art surveys). If you are asked for a report on such a submission, the criteria outlined above need to be modulated. Short squibs, in particular, “will not be required to propose a solution to problems they address as long as their relevance to theoretical issues is made clear” (as Linguistic Inquiry puts it).
Short and quick
Please note that when the editors request a short review, that means they do not at that stage require or expect detailed feedback on individual errors or areas for improvement. The priority is for a rapid decision, and the editors will make an additional request of the reviewer if and when they feel further information is needed.