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I completed my PhD a year ago and I am currently a postdoctoral researcher. I have been invited by my PhD supervisor to be the referee of a paper, as he thought it would add value to my CV. The paper is quite brief (7 pages in total) and it is an empirical work. However, while I do have some comments with regards to the data and some other general points, I am not particularly familiar with the methodology used. I have spent some time to familiarise myself with the statistical concepts that have been employed and have a general idea of the approach taken; yet I do not have the depth of knowledge to critically assess the methodology per se.

Would it be sufficient to just write a report and add some general comments regarding the data, potential missing control variables, choice of the methodology etc?

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  • Is the methodology a standard one for your field, which you just happen to have not worked with, or a relatively unusual one? I ask because in the first case, the onus is on you to know the methodology, while in the second case the onus is on the authors to convincingly support their use of the methodology.
    – jakebeal
    Jul 12, 2021 at 15:58
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    I have been invited by my PhD supervisor to be the referee of a paper - I'm not sure what this means---is your advisor the editor handling the submission? If you're not sure what's expected/desired of a refereeing role or if you're capable of suffices, ask the person who asked you to do it.
    – Kimball
    Jul 12, 2021 at 18:16
  • First: "invited by my PhD supervisor" means (a) your advisor is the handling editor and officially asked you, on behalf of the journal, to be a reviewer, (b) the advisor was invited to be a reviewer but declined and suggested to the editor you do it, or (c) advisor accepted the invitation to review and handed it to you as in "do my work for me"? Second, to address your question directly: you can (a) do the review best you can and inform the editor that you are not familiar with the methodology well enough to judge it, so inviting a second reviewer might be appropriate, or (b) reject the ...
    – user132477
    Jul 13, 2021 at 18:15
  • ... invitation to review on the basis that you don't feel qualified enough to make a competent review (happens all the time, no worries).
    – user132477
    Jul 13, 2021 at 18:16

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Actually, I'd suggest that you do something deeper and probably more valuable and in line with the thinking of your advisor.

Hopefully the advisor knows some things that you don't. Perhaps you can take your questions about methodology back to them and get some guidance, or at least a place to bring yourself up to speed on the needed background.

Or perhaps there is someone else who is local and can provide the assistance you need.

Failing that, you do the best you can (unless you reject the review), though it may not count for as much in your education or CV. The authors and journal are counting on you.

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