Seeking Peer Review?

EE user Ann C. Gilchrest is a researcher who understands the vaue of having one’s work critically dissected by outside eyes. Specifically by someone who is both skilled and frank, as opposed to friends who read lightly and praise us supportively.

Ann has also tagged the problems we can face when we seek that review:

“It seems that that the only way to have a case study or proof argument undergo peer review,” Ann wrote, “is through submitting an article to one of the top five journals. It can take up to two years for an article to be published.

“Many genealogists are writing up proof arguments and case studies and posting them to blogs. This prevents them from being submitted to the top journals—although I think some of the journals allow this but am not sure.

“Is there a place that genealogists can submit a blog post or article for review without submitting to one of the top journals? If one hires a CG to take a look at a proof argument is there an ethical issue? Is contracting with a CG to review a proof argument even appropriate? Are there any CG's who specialize in doing peer review?”

All this gives us four issues to cover:

1. Publication delays
That “up to two year wait” for publication is a chronic problem in the research world, regardless of the field. The reasons are valid; but they don’t scratch the itch we have to make our brilliant findings available N.O.W.

2. Self-publishing online
Posting our arguments and case studies to a blog will, indeed, kill our chances of publishing that same work in a respected journal. After all, posting online is publication—the ultimate form of publication. It distributes our work to more people than any print journal ever could. What reason would a journal have to critique, edit, and grant page-space, at their expense, to material that’s already available for free? They don’t exist so writers can brag about publishing in XYZ Journal. They exist to give their subscribers fresh, innovative, and sound ideas that are not available elsewhere.

3. Peer review outside of journals
Yes, there are a few programs through which genealogists can receive critiques of a proof argument or case study. Very few. All are within a classroom1 or an online study group such as ProGen.2 The drawback to the study groups, of course, is that the peers who critique each other’s work within the group may or may not have the specific expertise needed.

4. Professional help
Is it “appropriate,” Ann asks, to seek a review from a professional who has the appropriate expertise?

Yes, indeed—with two caveats:

  1. We would not have our work reviewed by an “outside expert” if we were preparing the proof argument or case study for a certification portfolio. After all, it’s our skills that are being tested in that portfolio.
  2. We would acknowledge that person’s guidance or perspectives in the final product that we published—online or wherever. But then, we’d do that anyway, would we not?

Ann specifically questioned the appropriateness of seeking review from someone with the Certified Genealogist (CG) credential. That credential is one closely associated with analytical research, problem resolution, and the presentation of findings in forms that meet standards of proof.

That said, in all professional fields, holders of the same professional credential will have different specialties and different levels of expertise. To find the best guidance possible for her own problem, Ann might also study the major journals for research problems similar to her own, then target those professionals whose published work attest their own ability to conduct solid research, analyze wisely, and craft sound arguments. Many of them do manuscript review among their other types of commissioned work.

1. For an overview of educational programs, mostly affiliated with academic institutions and archives, see Board for Certification of Genealogists (

2. For information on the peer-led twelve-month ProGen program, see ProGen Study Groups: Encouraging Professional & Aspiring Genealogists ( Almost all group leaders are credentialed, primarily through the Board for Certification of Genealogists.

IMAGE CREDIT: "Review Time Business Concept," CanStockPhoto (… : downloaded 19 November 2018), csp 4504414, uploaded by duiwoy55 on 26 February 2017; used under license.

HOW TO CITE: Elizabeth Shown Mills, "Seeking Peer Review?," blog post, QuickTips: The Blog @ Evidence Explained ( : posted 19 November 2018).