How to write an outstanding review

Our editors rate all of the reviewer reports we receive on a scale of 1–5, with 5 representing a review of outstanding quality. Click here to read the full breakdown of the reviewer report ratings. These are the criteria to have a reviewer report rated 5 out of 5:

Criteria Level to be rated 5 out of 5
Thoroughness Detailed and very thorough: comments on essentially all sections of the manuscript
Assessment of significance Comments on the significance of the work within the context of the field
Literature comparison Includes a comprehensive comparison with existing literature
Feedback quality Constructive feedback that enables the author(s) to improve the manuscript
Recommendation Recommendation is clearly justified and consistent with the journal’s editorial standards
Timeliness Submitted in the agreed timeframe


These documents contain examples of outstanding reviews in the fields of:


This document contains examples of reviews rated 1, 3 and 5.


Here is a template you can use to help structure your review:

Comments to the editor/s
These comments will not be shared with the authors. Use this section if there is anything you want to say that would not be appropriate to tell the authors. If you suspect any form of author misconduct, mention it here.
Comments to the author/s
The following is a good way to structure your review.
Summary Open your review with a summary of the manuscript and its findings. This shows the authors and editors of the journal that you have read and understood the work.
Comments on the manuscript
  • Organise your comments into ‘Major points’ and ‘Minor points’ where applicable.
  • Comment on the originality, scientific rigour, significance and clarity of the work.
  • Compare the manuscript to existing literature. Check that the authors have cited the most relevant and recent appropriate work.
  • Make your review as thorough as possible by commenting on all sections of the manuscript. For example, you could structure your comments using manuscript section headings such as: “Abstract”, “Introduction”, “Methods”, “Results and Discussion”, “Conclusion” and “Supplementary material” (as appropriate).
  • Familiarise yourself with the editorial standards of the journal and comment on whether the manuscript meets those standards.
  • Make sure that your recommendations are specific enough for the authors to follow.
  • It is helpful to number your points. This can make it easier for the authors to respond to your comments and when checking the revised manuscript.
Recommendation At the end of your review, make a recommendation to the editor. Clearly state and justify your recommendation. This means explaining why you have chosen the reject/revise/accept option.


For more information about reviewing for IOP Publishing, go to our homepage for reviewers.