How to review a manuscript like Reviewer 2, a helpful 13-step guide

Now you too can be a notorious reviewer!

Zach Portman
3 min readMay 10, 2022

There is a common misconception in academia that the purpose of reviewing a manuscript is to improve it. This is incorrect, and it is the result of “woke” academics who think everyone deserves a participation trophy. The actual purpose of reviewing a manuscript is to demonstrate your intellectual superiority over the authors. A successful review not only results in the rejection of the manuscript, it also breaks the will of the authors, ultimately causing them to withdraw from academia altogether.

Recently I’ve received a couple reviews from wannabe Reviewer 2's that read like they were written by rank amateurs. So I’ve put together a helpful guide on how to properly write a review like Reviewer 2. However, be aware that few people actually have the intellectual horsepower to write a truly devastating review. If you think you have what it takes, here are the steps to follow:

  1. Remember that you are a world expert who is performing a major service by reviewing articles. This means that the authors deserve to put up with your brilliantly written repartees in order to gain access to your priceless knowledge.
  2. Ignore whatever broader arguments the authors are trying to make and focus on the flaws. Remember, a manuscript is like a house of cards…remove any single support and the whole thing comes crashing down.
  3. Any major errors you find prove that the manuscript is irredeemable. When you find them, be sure to wax poetic on the gall of the authors to submit such a flaming pile of garbage. Don’t even bother suggesting ways to improve it.
  4. Insult their character and make it clear you know they aren’t a real scientist. Question their motives and talk about the poor quality of their work in broad, sweeping terms. Remember that paper of theirs you didn’t like? Now is the perfect opportunity to bring it up and generalize about how everything they do is trash.
  5. Remember, reviewing a manuscript is like a scavenger hunt, but for mistakes. The more you find, the better able you are to lord your superiority over the authors. As a result, no error is too minor to point out.
  6. Make sure to focus on word choice to show your superiority. Tired of words like “very” or “elucidate” or “they”? Go through and demand they change every sentence that has one. Contractions also make choice targets.
  7. Don’t use proper punctuation or complete sentences in your review. The authors disrespected you by submitting an unpolished manuscript, so they don’t deserve a polished review.
  8. Remember, on the off-chance the article is accepted, the authors MUST respond to every comment you make. So make as many comments as you want, about anything you want. Sprinkle non-sequiturs throughout the manuscript to keep the authors off balance.
  9. If the authors missed any relevant references, this proves beyond all doubt that they did not do any background research whatsoever. Make sure to ask why they didn’t cite it in a way that makes this clear.
  10. If the authors propose something you haven't thought of before, it’s probably wrong. Don’t waste your time trying to understand it and simply state that they are wrong. No need to provide a citation that proves your point.
  11. Never say anything positive about an article. A true scientist gets all the encouragement they need from a combination of inner drive and spite.
  12. Don’t sign the review. Leave the authors guessing for the rest of their lives. In fact, it’s best to suggest they cite some papers from another authority in the field to throw them off the scent.
  13. For your recommendation, there are only two options: reject or major revisions. If you’re not recommending reject for the vast majority of your reviews, you’re doing something wrong.

Follow these steps, and you might just be able to become a true Reviewer 2. Having submitted your review (ideally at least a few weeks late), you can sit back and reflect with satisfaction on the various barbs you landed. You don’t even need to feel bad about writing a devastating review because the authors could have easily avoided it by simply being better scholars and submitting a perfect manuscript. Just think, if you had a spare couple months, you could have written this manuscript yourself and done a much better job.

(In case it wasn’t abundantly clear, this is satire, and you should not do these things.)



Zach Portman

I am scientist who studies bees. My research covers the identification, biology, evolution, and conservation of native bees.