My professor asks us on a frequent basis to review papers and get together, discuss their merit and come up with a review. This happens in bursts, where I may do 2 one week 2 another and then go for 3 weeks with none and then back to having 2 or so a week to look at. There is never more than a 2 week notice given before we must have these reviews in. I would say at a minimum I review 6 papers a semester, with 10 being the max.

So my question is how much time should a Ph.D. candidate student be putting toward reviewing a paper? Also how many papers a semester or year would you consider an average having to review as a Ph.D. student?

Now realize I understand that I need to be reading papers and the state of the art in my field but that is not what we are asked. I feel it is more involved to come up with a metric of determining originality and such with each paper for a review.

  • 6
    The question seems to leave ambiguous what the purpose of this reviewing is (or at any rate I wasn't able to figure it out). Are you reviewing papers that have been submitted for publication or already published papers? When you say "come up with a review", do you mean a written review? What is the stated purpose of this activity? Commented May 26, 2015 at 6:01
  • We are reviewing unpublished papers for conference and journal publications.
    – NDEthos
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 20:35

1 Answer 1


There is no hard and fast rule here: some professors don't ask their students to help review at all, others pass all of their reviewing to their students. I think the latter position is generally indefensible---the professor is being asked to review because of their expertise, not their ability to press-gang students into doing work for them.

In my own thinking, the driving principle should be the education of the student. Every person who is aiming for a career in academia will be asked to review, and every person who authors papers should have a chance to experience the reviewing process from the other side as well. To me, though, that calls for a few papers a year, not a paper every week.

From your description, I'm not quite sure how to judge the situation with your advisor. At first reading, my thought is that your advisor is accepting more reviews than they can handle, and dealing with the situation by passing on the reviews to you and your fellow graduate students, which would be inappropriate. If your advisor is actually spending a lot of time with the paper as well, and essentially co-reviewing with you, then perhaps they just have a very unusual perspective on how to learn about paper-writing and the state of the field.

I think it also depends a lot on the quality of papers you are getting asked to review: if you are being asked to read good papers sent to top journals, then it's more defensible, since you really are seeing the newest relevant literature before anybody else; if there's a lot of low-quality stuff to iffy venues, though, it's probably a waste of time for everybody involved.

Bottom line: you're being asked to do an unusually high amount of reviewing, and if it's interfering with your ability to pursue the rest of your program, then it would be reasonable to bring it up with your advisor and ask for a change.

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