Frame Search and Re-Search: How Quantitative Sociological Articles Change During Peer Review
42 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2015
Date Written: July 22, 2015
Peer review is a central institution in academic publishing, yet its processes and effects on research remain opaque. Empirical studies have (1) been rare because data on the peer review process are generally unavailable, and (2) conceptualized peer review as gate-keepers who either accept or reject a manuscript, overlooking peer review’s role in constructing articles. This study uses a unique data resource to study how sociological manuscripts change during peer review. Authors of published sociological research often present earlier versions of that research at annual meetings of the American Sociological Association (ASA). Many of these annual meetings papers are publicly available online and tend to be uploaded before undergoing formal peer review. A data sample is constructed by linking these papers to the respective versions published between 2006 and 2012 in two peer-reviewed journals, American Sociological Review and Social Forces. Quantitative and qualitative analyses examine changes across article versions, paying special attention to how elements of data analysis and theory in the ASA versions change. Results show that manuscripts tend to change more substantially in their theoretical framing than in the data analyses. The finding suggests that a chief effect of peer review in quantitative sociology is to prompt authors to adjust their theoretical framing, a mode or review I call “data-driven.” The data-driven mode of review problematizes the vision of sociological research as addressing theoretically motivated questions.
Keywords: peer review, knowledge claims, revision, evaluation, construction
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