We ask all members of the review team (editors, composers, reviewers, and the review coordinator) to interact as colleagues committed to improving the submission. We ask peer reviewers to bring their best selves to the process and to respond to the work as they would want someone to respond to their work and foster their success. Your job, as a reviewer, is not to decide if the piece is ready to publish but to provide thoughtful feedback, encouragement, and praise for what the piece does well in addition to identifying areas for improvement that could make it ready to publish.


As we develop our new Collaborative Community Review application, PPJ’s Formative Peer Review is being conducted in Google Documents for text and other cloud-based services for multimedia submissions. Thus, after a composer completes our Submission Form, their piece is assigned to a Review Coordinator who prepares the piece for review in Google Documents and invites composers and reviewers to access the review.

Review Using the PPJ’s Four Style Criteria

Please review with the goal of identifying ways the composer could improve the piece towards publication. To determine a piece’s fitness for publication, the Public Philosophy Journal uses the following criteria:

      1. Accessibility: Connects with the public at large and resonates with specific, publicly engaged individuals and organizations. This usually requires unpacking technical terms, linking to source and related materials, providing transcripts for audio and video, and providing alt-text for images.
      2. Relevance: Timely and responsive to an issue that concerns a specific public community.
      3. Intellectual Coherence: Compelling and well-ordered according to the genre of the piece.
      4. Scholarly Dialogue: Cites and considers related discussions either within or outside of the academy, whether encountered in peer-reviewed literature or other media such as blogs, magazines, podcasts, galleries, or listservs.


Guiding Questions for the Four Style Criteria

Some questions to consider as you review a submission include:

1. Accessibility

  • Can the composer replace or explain any technical terms?
  • How does the piece consider multiple accessibility needs, such as accessing and interacting with text, audio, video, and other media?
  • Are people of all genders, races, classes, religions, abilities, sexual orientations and other groups treated equitably in the piece? If so, how?

2. Relevance

  • Which specific audience(s) or communities does the composer acknowledge, consider, and engage with in their work?
  • What organizations and individuals are engaged in public initiatives associated with the questions or issues addressed by the submission?
  • Why is this specific issue of interest to this specific at the time of composition or publication?

3. Intellectual Coherence

  • Does the composer identify claims that support their argument?
  • How does the composer explain how the claims are related to each other and the larger argument?
  • Does the composer provide compelling evidence in support of their claims?
  • For more creative works, how does the composer convey their intended message to readers, listeners, and/or reviewers?

4. Scholarly Dialogue

  • How does the composer demonstrate their awareness of existing discussions of their topic?
  • How has the composer cited the work of others in their project?
  • How do the composer’s citations represent members of the community concerned with the issue at hand?

Composing Public Holistic Responses

Formative Peer Review (FPR) invites reviewers to compose a Public Holistic Response to be considered for publication in the journal alongside the piece under review. After providing feedback on specific passages of a submission – the first part of review – reviewers are encouraged to draft a public holistic response in the box provided at the bottom of the review page. If the submission is accepted for publication, reviewers will be given opportunities to revise their responses.

Public Holistic Responses are vital to the PPJ mission. They aim to nurture generosity and collegiality among composers and review teams; they encourage reflection on how the work engages or might further engage with stakeholder communities; they incentivize post-publication discussions; and they give formal recognition of the time and care that reviewers have invested in the work. The PPJ encourages hiring, tenure and promotion, and other committees to regard responses published in the journal as valuable scholarly contributions, in addition to considering them as evidence of participation in review, mentoring, and publication processes vital to their contributors’ fields.

holistic response considers the sum of the aims, arguments, findings, and other key elements of the work under consideration, especially in relation to the PPJ’s criteria for how well a submission demonstrates publicly engaged scholarship: relevance, accessibility, intellectual coherence, and scholarly dialogue. Thus, reviewers are asked to pay particular attention to how the work

  • connects with members of the stakeholder community for whom the issue is of special concern;
  • invites approachable conversations with a broad audience;
  • engages concepts that deepen and advance understanding of the issue; and
  • participates in pertinent conversations within the academy and beyond.

Although reviewers should respond honestly to the work, it is equally important that they respond cordially and constructively. Responses that demonstrate the PPJ’s core values offer suggestions alongside criticisms, helping to expand on the work’s strengths, and pointing toward possibilities for continued conversation.

As a general rule, reviewers should aim to compose approximately 250 to 450 words. For examples, explore publications in the Journal, such as the responses to “Practicing Public Scholarship” by PPJ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Long.


Upon submitting their work, composers are asked to nominate a formative peer reviewer who is engaged with the issue of public concern addressed by the submission. To facilitate the review process, each submission is then assigned to a formative peer review coordinator (RC) whose first task is to identify a complementary reviewer.

Peer reviewers and composers are able to view and engage each other’s comments in conversation during the review process. Coordinators play an active and vital role in that conversation, ensuring that it unfolds in a collegial and caring way. They stimulate ongoing dialogue between composers and peer reviewers by encouraging composers to respond more thoroughly to reviewer feedback, and encouraging reviewers to provide persistent support to composers as their works advance toward publication.

Like peer reviewers, coordinators are offered the opportunity at the end of the process to compose public holistic responses that may be published alongside the work itself.


PPJ ‘s Formative Peer Review requires much more engagement between composers and reviewers than is traditionally part of academic scholarship. FPR is recognized as an intellectually rigorous process, just as we encourage recognition that works published in the Journal are strong contributions to their pertinent fields and to public philosophy more broadly. 

To recognize the depth of engagement it takes to be part of FPR, the editors are happy to provide confirmation letters for inclusion in packages for tenure and promotion reviews, applications for graduate study, and applications for academic or non-academic employment. Composers and reviewers may request a confirmation letter by contact