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“This article is interesting, however”: exploring the language use in the peer review comment of articles published in the BMJ

Guangyao Zhang (WISE Lab, Institute of Science of Science and S&T Management, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China)
Licheng Wang (WISE Lab, Institute of Science of Science and S&T Management, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China)
Weixi Xie (WISE Lab, Institute of Science of Science and S&T Management, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China)
Furong Shang (College of Geography and Environment, Shandong Normal University, Jinan, China)
Xinlu Xia (WISE Lab, Institute of Science of Science and S&T Management, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China)
Chunlin Jiang (WISE Lab, Institute of Science of Science and S&T Management, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China)
Xianwen Wang (WISE Lab, Institute of Science of Science and S&T Management, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China)

Aslib Journal of Information Management

ISSN: 2050-3806

Article publication date: 7 December 2021

Issue publication date: 16 May 2022

307

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to reveal a symbol – “however” that authors are very interested in, but few research studies pay attention to the existing literature. The authors aim to further insight its function.

Design/methodology/approach

In this research, the authors selected 3,329 valid comments on articles published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) from 2015 to 2020 as the research objects. The authors showed the length distribution of reviewers' comments. In what follows, the authors analyzed the general distribution of words in comments and reviewer comments’ position to understand reviewers' comments qualitatively in word dimension. Specially, the authors analyzed functions of “however” and “but”, words that authors are most concerned with. In addition, the authors also discussed some factors, which may be related to “however,” that reflect reviewers' praise through regression analysis.

Findings

The authors found that there are marked differences in the length of reviewers' comments under different review rounds. By mapping the reviewers' comments to different sections, the authors found that reviewers are deeply concerned to methods section. Adjectives and adverbs in comments written in different sections of the manuscripts also have different characteristics. The authors tried to interpret the turning function of “however” in scientific communication. Its frequency of use is related to reviewers' identities, specifically academic status. More precisely, junior researchers use “however” in praise more frequently than senior researchers do.

Research limitations/implications

The linguistic feature and function of “however” and “but” in the reviewers' comments of the rejected manuscripts may be different from accepted papers and also worth exploring. Regrettably, the authors cannot obtain the peer review comments of rejected manuscripts. This point may limit the conclusion of the investigation of this article.

Originality/value

Overall, the survey results revealed some language features of reviewers' comments, which could provide a basis of future endeavors for many reviewers in open peer review (OPR) field. Specially, the authors also put forward an interesting symbol to examine the review comments, “however”, for the first time.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Yuqi Wang for the support provided in data analysis. The authors gratefully acknowledge the grant from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71673038, 71974029). The authors thank two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions. The authors admit, to their interest, that this manuscript was received “however” in the review reports. And authors used the reviewer's comments “This article is interesting, however” to name this article. Thanks again to the reviewers.

Declaration of conflicting interests: The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.

Citation

Zhang, G., Wang, L., Xie, W., Shang, F., Xia, X., Jiang, C. and Wang, X. (2022), "“This article is interesting, however”: exploring the language use in the peer review comment of articles published in the BMJ", Aslib Journal of Information Management, Vol. 74 No. 3, pp. 399-416. https://doi.org/10.1108/AJIM-06-2021-0172

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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