“This work is antithetical to the spirit of research”: An anatomy of harsh peer reviews

Ken Hyland, Feng Kevin Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


Peer review is regarded as a central pillar of academic publishing, acting as a filter for readers, guidance for authors and a screening process for editors. Despite this, however, it is a contentious and high stakes practice which is not always conducted in a mentoring or collegial spirit. The pressures on academics to publish in high impact journals means this can be a fraught experience Many academics find it an anxious and upsetting experience, and this is particularly true when reviews are overly critical or abusive. In this paper we explore extracts of reviews which authors regard as particularly harsh. Examining a corpus of 850 excerpts posted by authors on the shitmyreviewerssay website, we identify the keywords, evaluative foci and stance markers which distinguish these reviews, and which contribute to their cutting effects. In doing so we not only seek to describe these texts, but to contribute to a wider conversation concerning the feedback academics receive on their work and encourage more mentoring and formative practices.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100867
JournalJournal of English for Academic Purposes
Early online date17 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • Academic writing
  • Peer review
  • Academic publishing

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