During peer review, subject experts read through your textbook and provide critical feedback and suggestions for improvement. Peer review ensures your content is accurate, adequately covers the material and is suitable for classroom use.
Because open textbooks are low-cost and easy to produce, they’re sometimes perceived as low-quality compared to commercial textbooks. Peer review allows you to dispel these notions by ensuring a high-quality product.
Not only does peer review signal to potential adopters that your textbook has passed through a rigorous quality control process, but reviewers often end up adopting texts they’ve reviewed themselves.
When designing your peer review process, you’ll need to consider:
You’ll need this information for your invitation or call for applications.
Below is a summary of a the steps involved in conducting a typical peer review process:
Example open textbook peer review process:
Some of the people you’ll need to include in your peer review process:
There are a number of different peer review models you can adopt for your open textbook:
The following example peer review rubric for open textbooks is based on The Open Textbook Library’s Open Textbooks Review Criteria:
|Comprehensiveness||The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary.|
|Content accuracy||Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased.|
Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time.
The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement.
|Clarity||The text is written in lucid, accessible prose and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used.|
|Consistency||The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework.|
The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e. enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided).
The text should not be overly self-referential and should be easily reorganised and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.
|Organisation/structure/flow||The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion.|
|Interface||The text is free of significant interface issues, including:
|Grammatical errors||The text contains no grammatical errors.|
|Cultural relevance||The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities and backgrounds.|
Additional example peer review rubrics for open textbooks:
‘Peer Review Process Summary’ and ‘Peer Review Process Guide’ in The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far) by Apurva Ashok and Zoe Wake Hyde, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.
‘Open Textbook Library Open Textbooks Review Criteria’ developed by BCcampus, licensed under a CC BY 3.0 licence.
Peer review is an important part of the quality control process for open textbooks. Sitting down with authors and working through the information in the 'For Authors' section of this step is a helpful strategy for ensuring everyone understands why and how peer review is being conducted, who is responsible for coordinating this process and what they should do with the resultant feedback.
Encourage authors to take an active role in selecting, recruiting and acknowledging peer reviewers – even if the library is coordinating the peer review process – and to record reviewers’ feedback along with their own responses and share this documentation with everyone on the authoring and publishing teams.
Authors will require input from library staff at key points in the production process, across all stages of the workflow. Read through the guides in the workflow to see where library staff will need to work with authors on tasks such as copyright checking, peer review and publishing. Review the authors' time line and make a note of when you might expect to be called on to provide assistance.