We ask that, unless special arrangements have been explicitly made, referees' reports be supplied within one month of accepting the task.
ScholarOne Manuscripts allows direct typing of reports into the site, but, as with all typing directly into text boxes, there is a risk of loss of work. Referees may prefer to paste their text, or lodge their reports as (or supplement them with) word-processed documents. If they do so, they should take notice of the limitations on file formats described on the Submissions page. We prefer not to receive reports in PDF format. Reports must be anonymous.
Referees are warned that, if they have their browser set to block pop-ups, they should make the ScholarOne site an exception. Otherwise important messages may be missed, and report submissions may fail without the editorial staff being aware of the failure.
A referee is asked to indicate clearly whether acceptance, conditional acceptance, minor revision, major revision, or rejection is recommended. If either kind of revision is the recommendation, indication should be provided of willingness (or lack of it) to read a revised version of the paper; in the former case, a copy of the manuscript should be retained. (A verdict of 'major revision' is not available when the paper has already been resubmitted; resubmitted papers are identifiable by an 'R' suffix to their login number.) In the case of a paper longer than 8,000 words of main text including bibliography (or a Discussion Note longer than 2,000), referees should bear in mind the editorial policy that the acceptance bar rises with increasing length; roughly speaking, a 16,000-word article would have to be good enough to out-compete not just one but two good papers of 8,000 words each, and suggestions about how a paper could profitably be shortened are always very useful. It greatly assists the Editor in coming to a decision if referees provide sufficient commentary so that the basis of their judgment, rather than just the verdict itself, is clear. This also is vital information for authors, who will have a clearer idea of how their work must be improved in order to be of a standard publishable in a leading journal.
Referees should also bear in mind that Journal policy is to make available as much of their reports as possible to the author(s). They should accordingly adopt a judicious tone in their assessment, while not forgetting that, if a paper is of very poor quality the report must indicate this. A clear and forthright report is of more use to author and Editor than a tactfully evasive one, but the language should be measured.
A paper accepted for publication in the AJP should of course display in a high degree the usual academic virtues — argument, organization, originality, scholarship, significance and so on — and referees are expected to comment on these matters. But it would be greatly appreciated if referees also asked themselves these sorts of questions about a submission: Is it enjoyable, even exciting, to read? Does it display flair, or elegance, or vivacity in the writing? (Or is the prose, for example, leaden or repetitive?) Is it written in such a way that it might interest someone who does not already have detailed knowledge of its subject matter?
Referees should consider that (i) the AJP is one of the top-rated journals of its kind, and (ii) we have space for only a small percentage of the very large number of submissions we receive. As assessing revisions adds significantly to the already high workload, a referee should be confident that this sort of standard is likely to be achieved at the first attempt before recommending revision rather than rejection.
It hardly needs saying that we would like referees to assess the paper, as far as possible, with regard to the quality of its argumentation, rather than in terms of the compatibility of its conclusions with their own positions and philosophical commitments. Writing a report is different from writing a reply.