So, how does this process work? Watch the video below. It comes from a collection of videos put together by the librarians at NC State.
Alternatively, should you need silence, for example, you could try to follow my drawing of the process.
First, the lady in the blue dress writes an article. She thinks it’s not so bad so she sends it to an editor of a journal she likes. (The editor is in red).
Second step: the editor thinks it’s not so bad either, but she isn’t a specialist in the field. (She studied literature, but her focus was Shakespeare, and the article is about mystery novels set in a corrupt California in the 1970s.) So, she sends the article to people who know more–one of them, the dude with the gray mop of hair, studied mystery novels. The other, the girl wearing an olive-coloured dress, studied corruption in California in the 60s–it’s close enough. Gray mop and Olive dress are considered Peers to Blue dress. They write reports and send them back to the editor. If the reports say essentially “the article is pretty good but needs to make a few small changes,” the editor then sends them back to blue dress.
Third, Blue dress writes Version # 2 of the article. She sends it back to the purple haired, red dressed editor, who decides it’s perfect.
Fourth, it gets published in the Journal of Florescent Green-ness. Voila!
The purpose of the process is to ensure that the research is innovative and makes a contribution to the field of study. All academic articles and books go through a similar process. Scientists might be asked by one of their reviewers to do a new set of experiments; historians might be asked to consult a newly opened archive. Sometimes editors might simply ask the writer to revise their structure. The required changes can be considered “major” or “minor.”