Reviewing as Literature

A brief thought this evening about reviewing. I do my fair share of reviewing for academic conferences and journals. It’s what gets called “academic service” – giving back to the academic community by doing free work reviewing and evaluating other people’s contributions as an expert. The whole thing’s vaguely suspect these days, given that I’m not quite an “academic” any more so much as a teacher, but that’s alright.

And it’s alright because, as I continue reviewing, I’ve started to think of it as a form of literature. I no longer try to functionally review each paper or article I get sent, enumerating its pros and cons, but end up enjoying the flair of language you can get in there. There’s a particular voice you can use when reviewing that doesn’t come up in other settings – I suppose because it’s the only forum in which I’m called to literally judge someone else’s work in that way.

So I find myself relishing a particularly neat turn of phrase that calls attention to the lack of statistically significant results, or a decisive and summary judgment of the discussion of the methodology employed. It’s really not a situation I ever pictured, but in many ways I find reviewing to be the most satisfying form of writing I engage in these days.

Good honest work. Would argue for acceptance.

10 March 2011
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