A brief summary of best practices for peer reviewers...
Integrity: Do a good review, spend time and take care on it.
Know your journal: Read the notes for authors, familiarise yourself with the articles it publishes, look for its citation indexes - all these will help you to set the standards for the review.
Align with the editor to set the quality criteria of your reviews: Editors usually need content for their journals, if you are too strict maybe you are not valid to them.
There are many more options than accepted / rejected: You can leave it open for the author to improve it, without throwing it back completely. Leave the decision to the editor - they are still another reviewer. Sometimes the material is good but you have to help authors to adapt the paper to the journal’s editorial line.
Be constructive with your comments: Think of the author who has devoted time and has tried to contribute to knowledge - it could be your paper in the future. Use the journal form for reviews, it will make the task of revision easier.
Accept the articles which you feel able to review: That said, you should accept some papers a bit beyond your area of expertise and knowledge. Editors usually have trouble finding reviewers, if you only circumscribe to your specific field, you are not going to learn nor are you going to make the editor's life easier.
Confidentiality of information: Do not consult nor send anyone the paper you are reviewing, especially to a professional who does not know anything about peer review or research. If it’s something you do not know, you can ask or investigate, but you have been requested to do it, contribute as far as you can.
Time management: If editors see that you are a good and efficient reviewer, you will be used a lot. So reviewing one or two articles every two months is fine. In fact it'll keep you mentally fit - you read about your research field, you learn about paper structuring, you gain knowledge of journals’ procedures and you build relationships with editors for the future.
Conflict of interest: If you’re not comfortable with the review task, either you think you know the author or it is a subject far beyond your knowledge, you have several options: withdraw as a reviewer, have deft touch or work harder on the review; it will depend on your level of compromise with the journal.
Be agile: There is no reason to take four to six weeks to review a paper, do it within the next week. Spend a couple of hours at most (one to read and take notes, and another to do the review, with time in between to let your brain assimilate it).
In conclusion: easy, peer-sy!
The peer review process is a learning experience, a way to build your network and stay updated in your research field.
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