Reviewing for the MJA

Peer review is the cornerstone of the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA)’s publication of high quality research and commentary. It plays a crucial role in increasing the quality and impact of our published research and opinion papers. The MJA appreciates the generosity, time, support and commitment of peer reviewers. The MJA receives more than 1300 manuscripts per year and only publishes 10–20% of these. We aim to ensure every manuscript is given appropriate consideration. 

What makes a good review?  

A good review will identify inconsistencies or obvious errors in the manuscript, or the underlying research described. Peer review can also help authors improve the analysis and presentation of their work and ensure others understand the value of the research, in context of its limitations, and communicate this value to the Australian and international community.

Overview of the reviewer role at the MJA 

The review process is managed via ScholarOne. Reviewers are invited via ScholarOne and can accept or decline to review at that stage. In that invitation, reviewers are provided with the manuscript’s abstract and specific comments or requests from the editors. As we aim to select reviewers carefully. If you are not able to review, we really appreciate reviewers letting us know rapidly and giving recommendations for colleagues who might review.  

Reviewers should keep their review confidential.  After checking with the handling editor, reviewers may consult with colleagues to complete their review. Reviewers should decline to review if they have a conflict of interest in relation to the manuscript. Reviewers will be asked to declare any conflict of interests at the time of submitting their review. This information is not passed onto the authors. 

Writing a review

Different article types require different types of reviewer reports. The section below relates primarily to research articles but, where appropriate, information is discussed for other article types. 

When writing a review, we recommend writing it in Word or another document outside of ScholarOne, then, once you are ready to submit it, pasting the text into the relevant section. Reviewers can also upload files for both the "Editor" and the "Editor and Authors”.  

Methodological reviewers may be asked to use a specific instructions format for reviews, which will be sent to them when they accept the review. 

In ScholarOne, reviewers are asked to provide the following:

  • rating of the manuscript against four criteria;

  • recommendation of overall decision; 

  • confidential comments to the editor; and

  • comments to the author. 

Only the comments for authors are passed on to the authors. All the other information is to help the editors make the final decision. 

Rating of the manuscript against four criteria.

The reviewer has three options for each of these four criteria: strong, medium, and weak

1. Relevance to the MJA’s audience:

The MJA is a general medical journal, with a primarily Australian audience. Please provide your assessment of whether this submission is likely to be of wide general interest and/or to be able to influence policy or practice in Australian health care.

2. Strength or quality of evidence – or research quality:*

For a research manuscript, please rate the overall strength of the research. This rating might include an assessment of how reproducible the study is (e.g., how well reported is it; is there access to underlying data?). For a non-research manuscript, please rate the strength of the statements presented (e.g., how well they are referenced). 

3. Contribution to the research literature: 

For a research manuscript, please rate how you think the manuscript adds to the evidence base overall, recognising that health and medical research will always builds on past work, including, for example, through reproducing previous studies. For a non-research manuscript, please rate how the ideas presented add to understanding in the relevant area. If similar work has been published, does this manuscript add enough new information to warrant publication in the MJA (e.g., is it specifically relevant to an Australian context?). 

4. Presentation: 

Please rate the strength of the overall presentation of the manuscript, including writing and presentation of the figures and tables. Is there a simpler way to present the same information? If you have specific points, they can be added to your comments for authors. Note, you do not need to provide detailed copyediting. 

 *See (see pages 27-30

Recommendation on overall decision

The reviewer is asked to provide an opinion  on the journal’s decision regarding the manuscript. Note that final decisions are made by the Editorial Team at a manuscript meeting. The reviewer has four options: accept, minor revision, major revision, and reject. 

Confidential comments to the editor

Separate comments to the editors are not required. If you do provide them, it is important that they are consistent with your comments to the authors. This section can be used to share concerns with the editorial team.  

Reviewers may wish to comment on: 

  • Should the MJA publish this manuscript? If you have strong view on whether the manuscript should be accepted or rejected, it is helpful to indicate your reasoning here. 

  • Is there other research in this area that the Journal should review before considering this manuscript? 

  • What is the likely readership interest in the manuscript? 

  • Are there areas of the manuscript you felt unable to assess because they were outside your area of expertise? 

  • Are there competing interests that should be investigated? 

  • Are there any concerns with regard to the study ethics or governance arrangements? 

Comments to the authors

We regard this section as the most important section of your review, as it allows reviewers to make recommendations to the authors on how to improve and revise the manuscript. Reviewers should focus on their areas of expertise. Specifically, the MJA aims to ensure manuscripts are reviewed by methodological (e.g., statistical, health economists) experts to ensure analyses are adequate. Reviewers should not make recommendations on whether the manuscript should be accepted or rejected here. Please ensure that your comments to authors are constructive and objective and do not use a negative or critical tone or overly expressive language. The MJA reserves the right to edit or not use reviews if any of the language is likely to be offensive to authors. 

Tips on how to structure feedback for authors for a constructive MJA review: 

  • Summarise the study and your understanding of the manuscript.

  • Identify your primary assessment of the manuscript, including major strengths and weaknesses.  

  • For any major areas you have identified, be specific about what the issue is; for example, is the research question well defined? Are relevant reporting guidelines such as CONSORT used for clinical trials? What is the generalisability of the findings to cohorts and populations not in the study sample? If you can comment on the methodology, are the methods sound, robust, replicable, and supportive of the conclusions made? Is the interpretation of the findings supported by the research conducted? Are any major limitations acknowledged? 

  • List minor issues identified, which may include, for example, recommendations for presentation improvement, formatting, references. 

Respecting diversity of opinion 

At the MJA we value diversity in opinion and seek to identify reviewers who will contribute to the publication of Australia’s best research. We encourage discussion of themes and questions relevant to advancing effective and equitable health care for all Australians. We also value respectful disagreement and seek to ensure that differing viewpoints are reflected in our Journal. We ask that reviewers engage in scholarly discussion, using constructive criticism, and a collaborative and academic style. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has a number of recommendations for their grant reviews in how to provide constructive feedback to their applicants which we support for the reviews of manuscripts (See page 16 here). 

Recognition for reviewers 

The MJA provides the option of having recognition for a review reported to the Web of Science (formerly Publons). 

Additionally, as a valued reviewer for the MJA, you are entitled to 12 months of free access to our online content. After the completion of your review, you will receive a link to register for the free access.

Artificial intelligence and peer review 

Reviewers must not use artificial intelligence (AI) tools in any part of their review process. This includes sharing the article with any website or mobile phone applications (apps) that use AI tools. We consider this as a breach of confidentiality in the peer review process.

Overview of the review process at the MJA 

When a manuscript is initially submitted, it will be assessed by one of the MJA staff to ensure that all required parts of a submission are present. Authors may be asked for further information at this stage before the manuscript is passed to the editorial team. 

The manuscript is then assessed by one or more members of the in-house editorial team, which includes the Editor-in-Chief and Deputy Medical Editors. This initial screening determines whether the manuscript is appropriate for the MJA. For example, the manuscript addresses a high priority area for the Journal, such as:

  1. it relates to a high burden of disease in Australia;

  2. it is of high public health interest;

  3. it reports on Indigenous research;

  4. it is on a topic that is likely to have an immediate impact on clinical practice and policy.

The editorial team also assesses whether the study design is appropriate for addressing the research question, seeks to identify any major methodological issues, and determines whether the manuscript broadly fits the structure of the relevant manuscript type. However, manuscripts are not necessarily rejected at this stage simply because they do not fit our structure. This initial screening of manuscripts may result in rejection without peer review. Unfortunately, a high proportion of submitted manuscripts are rejected at this stage. 

If the manuscript passes initial screening, the editorial team seeks external peer reviewers. This review includes, in most cases, at least two content area experts and one methodological expert (eg, in statistics, health economics). Peer reviewers are invited to review manuscripts aligned with their expertise as recorded in the MJA ScholarOne database, history of publications in the MJA, or their history of high impact academic publications in the content area of the manuscript. Often manuscripts cover a range of content and methodological areas, and the MJA might seek reviewers to assess specific parts of the manuscript that match their expertise.  For manuscripts on Indigenous research, the MJA will seek review from Indigenous experts in the relevant area. 

The review process at the MJA is double anonymous, which means we attempt to ensure that neither reviewers nor authors know the others’ identities.  The MJA review process requires that authors anonymise their manuscript to comply with this requirement. 

Once peer review is completed by the reviewers, the editorial team considers the reviewers’ feedback in an editorial meeting and a decision is made on next steps. Although pre-publication peer review cannot assess every aspect of a manuscript, expert reviews are an important part of the review process and often determine whether a manuscript is ultimately accepted or not. If the manuscript is invited for revision, the reviewers may be contacted again for further comment. 

Other information on peer review 

The NHMRC lists a number of attributes for their grant reviews that we support for the reviews of manuscripts (see page 16).

eLife has a set of common vocabulary for reviewers to use

Wiley Authors Services has information on peer review

COPE has Ethical guidelines for peer reviewers.

The BMJ provides reviewer training resources 

If you are interested in reviewing for the MJA 

We are always looking for new content and methodological experts! If you are not already an MJA reviewer and would like to register your interest in contributing to the peer review of our research, please email us, providing a copy of your CV and area of interest, at