Guidelines to review/discuss papers

Conferences, discussant, research papers, review

I am pulling together different ideas on how to give helpful feedback as a discussant or reviewer of other people’s work and am starting a list here. Helpful comments are more than welcome and will be added to the list! 

  1. Simon Fraser University, Center for Canadian Studies

Role of the DiscussantThe discussant should state the key point or thesis of each paper, mention the major points, reasons, innovation, or evidence that support the overall argument and assess the papers in terms of the major theme of the conference. Further, to stay within the spirit of this multidisciplinary colloquium the discussant should prepare questions that stimulate fair, open, and inclusive discussion.    

Guidelines for presentations and discussants from Grenoble University: 



Guidelines for presentations

 Chair / Discussant guidelines– Arrive at the session room at the latest five minutes prior to the scheduled starting time and introduce yourself to the presenters.- A room attendant has been appointed to every session room. It is this person’s responsibility to take care of the audiovisual equipment and to assist you and the presenters at any time. This room attendant will introduce himself/herself to you at the start.- Inform presenters of the maximum of time they can use for their paper presentation. This time has been fixed to 15mins and includes a 5 minute question time. A 15min discussion slot has been allocated at the end of every session (these typically include 5 papers) . Introduce the orange and red card system to them (see below).- In introducing the session – please be brief – tell the audience how many papers will be presented, how long each presentation will be and when there will be time for questions.- For each paper, introduce the author and the title of the paper.- In order to facilitate time management of the presentations, a set of orange and red cards will be at your disposal. Show the orange card to the presenter when 5 minutes presentation time is left. Show the red card when time is over.- In managing the question-and-answer-time, please ask questioners to identify themselves and to keep their comments as short as possible to allow the presenters to respond in full.- Please ensure the session to finish in time. Sessions that overrun will affect next sessions.- In case you are presenting a paper yourself during the session you are chairing, we strongly recommend that this be done at the end of the session, even if this means altering the formal programme slightly. The efficient management of the session will benefit from it. When presenting your paper ask one of the other presenters to manage your time using the cards.


APPAM discussant guidelines from the APPAM website:

Guidelines for Discussants APPAM also sends a detailed letter to all session discussants by early September of each year. This letter informs the discussants of their responsibilities, and also provides them with basic information about their sessions.  It reminds them of time limits, and adds these further points:  Discussants are encouraged to make integrative comments rather than paper-by-paper critiques.  In many cases, very specific or detailed critics can be shared with paper authors outside of the session. 

  • Discussants should, if possible, contribute to the policy focus of the session.  
  • In general, discussant remarks about each paper should deal with the major issues that enhance or undermine the paper’ contributions, reserving minor issues for direct communication with the authors. 
  • Discussants are encouraged to help shape the audience participation in the session by identifying key points worthy of further analysis and discussion. 


From ASNA 2006 conference organizers:

  • Is the theoretical background coherent (and state of the art?)
  • Is there a clear research question?
  • Is the empirical “transformation” adequate?
  • Is there a red line in the paper / logical structure?
  • Is the language comprehensible?

 From Maria:

  1. pointing out its strengths and its contribution to the panel/literature/field
  2. constructively addressing its weaknesses
  3. providing suggestions for improvement along those lines.If you have to discuss several papers, an obvious addition to the above would be to compare the papers.

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