Argonne National Laboratory

How to Peer Review
“The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result. He does not expect that his advanced ideas will be readily taken up. His work is that of the planter—for the future. His duty is to lay the foundation for those who are to come, and point the way.” —Nikola Tesla

Scientific research is best supported when researchers are empowered to learn from one another by evaluating each others’ work, pointing out errors, and providing recommendations that can lead to better experimental designs and outcomes. This process of evaluation is known as peer review.

Most people know peer review in reference to peer-review journals, which are publications for which a panel of experts accepts and rejects journal submissions after assessing the quality of each individual study—but this is just one example of a peer review. Peer review also takes place at conferences, and in routine interactions in the lab, where researchers talk about their progress and experimental challenges and exchange feedback.

SULI Peer Review Guidelines

The following is adapted from the DOE SULI Program Deliverables Requirements and Guidelines. It is written for participants in the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) pogram.

As a SULI participant, you are responsible for conducting a peer review of another individual’s oral or poster presentation; your assigned lab will determine the review assignment. To complete the peer review, you must (1) attend a presentation, (2) ask at least one question of the presenter, and (3) write a one-page peer review. The review must be submitted in PDF format to the WARS online system within one week following the presentation, or prior to the end of your appointment, whichever occurs earlier. Your written review should assess each of the following:

1. Content

Was the presentation informative? Did it have a clear focus? Was it well researched?

2. Organization/clarity

Was it easy to follow? Was there a clear introduction and conclusion?

3. Visual aids

Did the presenter make effective use of visual resources, image design, layout, etc.? Was the text large enough to be easily seen? For oral presentations, please also assess the speakers.

4. Preparation

Can you tell that the speaker rehearsed their presentation? Was the speaker in control of the sequence, pacing, and flow of the presentation? Were notes, if used, effective without relying on them too heavily?

5. Sensitivity to audience

Did the speaker maintain eye contact with members of the audience? Did the speaker make effective use of pauses, gestures, change in pace and pitch? 

Tips on Doing a Peer Review


  • Consider your audience. If you are doing a peer review of a fellow intern, write as if you were writing the review for yourself. Use language that you yourself would be receptive to, especially when critiquing.


  • Minimize bias. Everyone has individual biases, but as scientific writers we strive to minimize this bias in all formal communications. We do this by making claims based solely based on the facts provided, not on unrelated, outside knowledge about the presenter or the organization he/she is associated with, etc.


  • Be constructive. If you are reviewing someone who works in the same field or lab as you, offer advice on improvements wherever possible.