A guide to performing a peer review of randomised controlled trials

Chris Del Mar*, Tammy C. Hoffmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
315 Downloads (Pure)


Peer review of journal articles is an important step in the research process. Editors rely on the expertise of peer reviewers to properly assess submissions. Yet, peer review quality varies widely and few receive training or guidance in how to approach the task.

This paper describes some of the main steps that peer reviewers in general and, in particular, those performing reviewes of randomised controlled trials (RCT), can use when carrying out a review. It can be helpful to begin with a brief read to acquaint yourself with the study, followed by a detailed read and a careful check for flaws. These can be divided into 'major' (problems that must be resolved before publication can be considered) and 'minor' (suggested improvements that are discretionary) flaws. Being aware of the appropriate reporting checklist for the study being reviewed (such as CONSORT and its extensions for RCTs) can also be valuable.

Competing interests or prejudices might corrode the review, so ensuring transparency about them is important. Finally, ensuring that the paper's strengths are acknowledged along with a dissection of the weaknesses provides balance and perspective to both authors and editors. Helpful reviews are constructive and improve the quality of the paper. The proper conduct of a peer review is the responsibility of all who accept the role.

Original languageEnglish
Article number248
Number of pages7
JournalBMC Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2015


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