- The Discourse of Peer Review: Reviewing Submissions to Academic Journals by Brian Paltridge, and: Getting Published in Academic Journals: Navigating the Publication Process by Brian Paltridge and Sue Starfield
London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. Pp. xiv, 235. Cloth: isbn-13 978-1-137-48735-3, uk£72.00, us$99.99; eBook: isbn-13 978-1-137-48736-0, uk£72.00, us$99.99
Doctoral students know a thing or two about following rules and meeting expectations. Those who persist to completion know, too, how to endure and learn from critique, how to negotiate conflicting opinions about their work, how to compromise. These behaviours evolve in an, ideally, encouraging ecosystem, one with clear requirements and supportive parties whose identities are mostly known. But when doctoral students (or those who have recently completed their studies) submit scholarly manuscripts for publication, they enter a murkier and likely less nurturing world. Unless writing for publication is mentored in graduate school—thankfully, an increasingly common occurrence—these aspirant contributors to scholarly conversations face unknown norms, practices, and expectations. After all, the steps between completing a manuscript and seeing it in print are not public acts,1 and the correspondence generated in the process populates a realm of 'occluded genres': covering letters, reviewers' reports, editorial correspondence, publication agreements, and more.2
Shedding light on reviewers' reports and the ensuing correspondence, in particular, are two recent offerings, one by Brian Paltridge (professor of teaching English to speakers of other languages at the University of Sydney) and the other by Paltridge and Sue Starfield (professor of [End Page 267] education at the University of New South Wales, Australia). Although the intended audiences differ, the messages align: reviewers' reports, frequently populated by indirect speech acts, can be 'quite tricky to interpret' (Paltridge and Starfield, 94) and thus 'difficult for beginning authors to decode' (Paltridge, 70). In The Discourse of Peer Review: Reviewing Submissions to Academic Journals, Paltridge analyses the genre of the reviewers' report through linguistic lenses of evaluation, politeness, and pragmatics (the relationship between language and context), generating a research monograph that will be of primary interest to scholars of language and communication. With Starfield in Getting Published in Academic Journals: Navigating the Publication Process, he offers a how-to guide for inexperienced academic authors that differentiates itself through its emphases on understanding the peer-review process and on interpreting and constructively responding to reviewers' reports. Both works are welcome contributions to the literature.
In eight chapters averaging twenty-four pages each, The Discourse of Peer Review offers a mini-lesson on genre (context, content, and form); reviews the literature on pragmatics, politeness, and evaluative language; presents a case study on corpus-informed discourse analysis; and includes a revelatory chapter on how peer review is learned—and another on how the necessary skills are or could be taught. Although the work synthesizes many previous studies, its original empirical contribution is an analysis of ninety-seven reviewers' reports for submissions to the journal English for Specific Purposes.3 Not surprising to those who are familiar with both sides of the peer-review process, conscientious reviewers often use various linguistic tactics to soften their criticisms. As a result, Paltridge explains, 'what might seem to be a suggestion, a recommendation, or a request for clarification is indeed not one. It is, rather, a direction where the reviewer wants the author to make, usually very specific, changes to their submission' (87). Moreover, confusion can be amplified when writers and reviewers unknowingly (through anonymous review) cross cultural boundaries. Language scholars themselves are likely attuned to these layerings of meaning and implication that result from intersections of locution (literal meanings), illocution (writers' intentions), and perlocution (readers' responses). But new authors, upon receiving a review replete with apologies, hedges, boosters, attitude markers, asides, appeals to shared knowledge, directives, questions, and...