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Editor: R.K. McKinzey, Ph.D.
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Last Update
5-3-02

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   A NOTE ON REVIEWS

Reviews come in three forms:

  • a) Literature reviews introducing an article. These are never comprehensive: Rather, they briefly describe some of the previous research done on the problem the author proposes to study. The reader is expected to know something of the problem already but can be expected to not know the literature comprehensively. WPE authors seek a balance between telling the reader too much and too little.
  • b) Literature reviews of a given topic. These are also never totally comprehensive, just more complete. Some reviews are purposefully ideological and will ignore findings contrary to the point being made. Others will try to summarize the existing literature in order to clarify what has been learned, and ignore badly done research. In print, such reviews are crippled by publication delays. WPE has no such delays, and offers the Update feature. Authors submitting topical reviews are expected to update them as relevant literature appears.
  • c) Reviews of a specific WPE or print article. These discuss the methodology and conclusions of the cited article. Reviews of WPE articles are linked so that readers of the article will also know of the review, author's reply, further debate, and updates. They are expected to be short. Reviews of print articles will not be posted without a cover letter certifying the reviewed article's author(s) have been notified (preferably by email) of the review.

Reviews of specific articles should avoid some frequent mistakes.

  • a) Avoid ad hominem attacks.
  • b) Avoid obvious logical errors, especially rhetorical ones.
  • c) Don't be petty.
  • d) Don't review research you don't know anything about.

And, please:

  • a) Add some new information to the debate.
  • b) Keep the review brief.
  • c) Be prepared to defend your views. The author is required to reply.

As noted, literature reviews are deliberately not comprehensive. Knowledgeable scientists may want to mention additional citations the authors omitted. Please consider doing so using the archived email list rather than in a review.

Some experiments try to replicate previously validated research (also called a cross-validation). When the results do not support the previous results, a "failure to replicate" article is published. If done properly, failures to replicate guide further research. "Hit piece" refers to an experiment or literature review deliberately (rather than inadvertently) designed to end a line of research. Hit pieces fail to use an obvious, easily available method, to control for an obvious, well-known variable, or fail to cite large amounts of conflicting literature. The resulting reviews will highlight these failures, and debate will ensue on whether the experiment or literature review is a hit piece.


 
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