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I am a PhD student in the field of education at the final year and I received a request from a well known journal (impact factor 1.6). I have published only conference papers. Is it normal to receive such a request? Or am I lucky?

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    It would be good to know in which field you are working. Depending on that, the answer could be that it's quite common and normal or that it is exceptional. Jan 31 '19 at 17:57
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    in field of education
    – user103807
    Jan 31 '19 at 22:14
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There are several possibilities. One is that you are lucky. One is that they are desperate (no, not really). But, I think that the most likely answer is that you have been "seen" by an editor via your conference papers and seem to be a good candidate to review a particular work. I would guess that the editor sees a match of interest and topic that points to you.

If you have the time for it, it would probably be a good idea to accept, just for the experience.

But, no, I don't think it is especially "normal" in most fields. When your advisor is an editor or a close associate of an editor, it might be more common, of course. Perhaps someone like that suggested you.

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In my field (biology) it's slightly unusual but quite common to have senior PhD students do peer reviews. Typically they would have published in the field, but it wouldn't be too surprising for an editor to request a review from a student who they knew of from conferences. Good peer reviewers are hard to come by, and a PhD student who is knowledgeable in the field can give a useful review.

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    "Slightly unusual / quite common" - which?
    – JBentley
    Jan 31 '19 at 20:59
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    ... both? I don't see a contradiction.
    – iayork
    Jan 31 '19 at 21:53
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    Well, consider that one definition of unusual is "not habitually or commonly occurring or done", which implies that the two phrases are somewhat opposite. Personally, I am confused by this answer as to whether it is slightly unusual (which I read as "slightly uncommon") or quite common (which I read as "not at all unusual"). The rest of the answer would tend to suggest it leans more towards the "unusual" than the "common" end of the spectrum.
    – JBentley
    Jan 31 '19 at 22:02
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    I think what you might be trying to say is It's slightly unusual, but not unheard of?
    – penelope
    Feb 1 '19 at 12:30
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    I'm pretty sure I'm trying to say that it's slightly unusual, but quite common. I'm aware that the internet is filled with people who think it's clever to say yes I COULD pass the salt, but I'm not interested in changing a simple and obvious statement into five paragraphs of legalese.
    – iayork
    Feb 1 '19 at 12:40
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It's moderately unusual but not unheard of. It's basically a positive. You are seen as a functioning professional scientist. So, just do a decent review and send it in.

Before you know it, you'll have a union card, get promoted, be a PI, etc. But if you are a good graduate student, you should already be becoming a scientific contributor well before you leave the nest. So it's all good. Take it in stride and rock out the review. Onwards.

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Some fields have a very small number of people at that level, so yes it is "normal", while other fields have so many people some good ones never get asked...

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In my experience, if you have received a request to review for a journal then it could be because of the following:

  1. The scope of the paper being reviewed has less number of reviewers available and it is a common practise to reach out to authors who have published work in that area.
  2. The journal needed an external reviewer to provide an objective view on the work in focus.
  3. Being recommened by someone to the journal for you to be a reviewer for the work in focus.

It is not really luck that you got contacted to be a reviewer but I would say it is more becasue of your expertise and/or network.

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For a long time after graduating as a PhD, I thought that every PhD students would have done some reviews, and that it would be fairly common to have reviewed journal papers. Then we hired in my team a young postdoc who had graduated a few month before and soon after I offered him an opportunity to review a paper in his area of expertise. I was shocked to know that it was his very first invitation to review a paper (even for conferences or workshops)! I realised after that that it is not too uncommon to find PhD students that never have the opportunity to review a paper before graduating.

I think that it depends mostly on whom you work with (your supervisor and the people you meet / interact with). As a Phd student, I was involved in a European project that allowed me to meet some of the top researchers in my community of research. I also had a supervisor who is among the well known researchers of that community. He gave me a lot of things to review, as well as to his other PhD students. I also got things from other colaborators. After that, I worked in a team where the boss had his share of reviews to do, and he delegated some of them to his students and postdocs.

So, all the way untill I got a permanent position, I was under the asumption that every mildly successful PhD students would have made reviews. I always try to offer my students a chance to review, unless I see they are struggling with their own work.

Anyway, is it really important to know if it's common or not? If the journal is reputable and you have the time to do it, then do it, and do it seriously.

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I think it is more a matter of practice and a little bit of luck. However, reviewing has become a part and parcel of my life as a PhD student with a lot of Conference reviews. Journals send me reviews only once in a while and it usually correlates with (maybe falsely, likely causally) with a submission I have sent which was not accepted eventually.

Also, I get conference review tasks regularly and I am yet to get accepted in a peer reviewed publication. It does go to the fact that the area thinks they might use my expertise ( I have significant industry experience and a notable grasp of research concepts , esp. upcoming and complex econometrics and methodologies) I think it helps to subscribe to Industry organisations (not just ones with listserv subscriptions) especially the top 3-4 in your area so that you are visible as a serious member.

Once you start as reviewer, I think more work depends on the quality and timeliness of your reviews. Also a lot of selection in this area is based on trust, so the 'evil' tenets of posing beyond your qualification and acting up are a big no if you want to be on the eternal gratitude of editors and conveners looking for erudite reviewers. Also you have to start publishing eventually as your review records get weighed against your choices to publish and your docus/praxis of published work in the relevant areas.

If you got to review because your guide/area was processing the conference/journal, then this may turn out to be a one off for you and not get counted by the journal for future reviews. Lastly, most of my colleagues past, pre

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