In this note we would like to emphasise the importance of the work done by readers in selecting material for publication in the Rivista. They bring an essential contribution to the scientific growth of the Society. The interrelationship between author, reader, and the members of the Editorial Board has a positive impact on psychoanalytic culture for everyone. It is a complex but also stimulating interactive process. It is important to bear in mind that sending an article to the journal is an opportunity for growth even when it does not result in actual publication, or when the author has to be directed towards a more suitable journal. The aim should be to help the author develop his or her thesis in a valuable way.
It benefits the evaluation if it is carried out according to certain guidelines which we would like to highlight here. The instructions which follow are certainly not prescriptive, but aim to give readers a simple critical orientation and help them to express a detailed and organic opinion of scripts, keeping a close eye on certain required priorities by employing a methodology and standards which have been tried and tested in international journals.
Before evaluating a work, it is appropriate to check for specific incompatibilities or non-correspondence to the reader’s own areas of expertise. The reader obviously treats the material he or she receives for evaluation as absolutely confidential, assessing whether for some reason there may be a conflict of interest in relation to the task.
First of all, it is helpful if the reader’s peer-review summarises the content and scope of the work, its method and objective, identifying with the author’s point of view. This part is very important for establishing whether the reader has genuinely understood what the author wishes to express, regardless of whether or not this has been successful. What is desired from the reader is not simply agreement or disagreement, but an illustration of the significance and coherence of the process by which the author has reached her or his conclusions, on the basis of the perspective that has been adopted. It is important for readers to make clear why and how they have come to formulate their opinion and final recommendation, so that authors will be able to make use of this information to improve the work by using the readers’ specific criticisms and suggestions. This is also very important for the Editorial Board which receives the peer-review in enabling them to make the best possible response to authors.
When reading the text, readers should try to respond, if possible, to some key questions, including the points in bold, which are often neglected by authors:
- Is the work original? Does it add a new stimulus in a certain area of study to what is already present in the literature?
- Is the chosen method suitable?
- Is the text clearly written? Does it read easily?
- Is the argument logical?
- Is there sufficient suitable clinical material? Is it coherent with the theoretical premises?
- Has the author succeeded in demonstrating the initial hypothesis?
- Are quotations recorded correctly according to the editorial guidelines of the Rivista?
- Is the bibliography adequate? Does it cite authors who are relevant to that area? And above all, does it list all and only those authors who are cited in the text?
- Is the abstract full enough? Is it a good, and concise, description of hypotheses and outcomes? Is it clearly and coherently constructed? A good abstract is often an extremely reliable indicator of a paper’s quality; and conversely, when it is not very clear, this almost always reflects a work’s inadequacies. An effective abstract should clearly indicate the main objectives and the results attained, provide indications of the method employed, and contain no superfluous material. The abstract should normally be no less than 100 words and no more than 130.
- Has confidentiality been respected in reporting clinical material? This is a particularly important and insidious matter because authors, immersed in the scientific aspects of their work, often have too little awareness of the delicacy of the problem.
- Is it suitable for the Rivista di Psicoanalisi?
- Does the title accurately reflect the contents of the work?
- Does the work’s length conform to the editorial guidelines?
At this point, the reader may offer various recommendations:
- Accept the work as it is;
- Accept it with slight modifications;
- Accept it with substantial modifications (which usual entails rewriting part of the text or restructuring it);
- Reject the work.
Where modifications, minor or major, are suggested, the reader should indicate them clearly and precisely.
Therefore, when drafting their extended opinion (with a reminder that this must be consistent with the completed summary form) readers are recommended to set out each critical point in detail, making explicit reference to the parts of the text under consideration (citing the page and the sentence or sentences).
It would be helpful to highlight the work’s areas of strength and weakness, pointing out any possible errors and typos, whether quoted, grammatical, or lexical; ambiguities and obscurities in the content; adherence or otherwise to the editorial guidelines of the Rivista; the aspects of the work which could be expanded or cut, or if it would be helpful to reorganize its different sections.