For most reviewers an efficient and effective review is not something obvious. This page aims to help starting reviewers to improve their competence of finding and preventing issues. Of course, when an issue is found, the (ethical) rules for a reviewer apply.
Structured reviewing is built on three attention points and one main idea. Keeping these points in mind when reviewing provides you with a great starting point for your review.
Before you start your review, prepare yourself. Find a comfortable place to work without distractions. Inform yourself about the document, the purpose, your relation to the document and your role in the review. Then, start with skimming the document to find out about the structure and which chapters, paragraphs, pictures etc. are applicable to you. Then, start your review. Know what kind of defects you absolutely want to find, but keep an eye out for other issues as well. Above all: do not assume anything!
Anything that you know – or think – is incorrect is worth noting down. Use your experience, knowledge and common sense. Be aware that the defect can very well have been introduced in related documentation! So, although consistent it might still be a defect.
You must be able to comprehend the document you read. Anything unclear, ambiguous, nonspecific or incomplete: it all can lead to future problems. If it’s not OK now, it will not automatically be OK tomorrow.
Fit for purpose
This is all about the usability and applicability aspects. The document should have value for you. It only has value if it provides you the required details to
- validate if the document covers your wish
- make sure it is consistent with your own deliverables
- use it as input for your own work without having to make assumptions
Performing a review must be useful. That means, that if the chance of finding Majors is very small, you can stop the review and spend your time on more important (other) work. Below diagram shows you a suggestion of how to restrict your review in time, related to the results of your review effort.
In the diagram there are 2 variables: N1 and N2. Depending on the document(type/size), your experience, your role and the time you have the values for these variables should be determined.
For example, both N1 and N2 can be “15”. This means that if you did not find any Majors after 30 minutes, you can stop your review.– It is advised to have the value for N2 equal to or smaller than N1. (For example N1 = 15, N2 = 10)
– A review that takes much longer than 45 minutes can result in a loss of concentration, especially if no Majors are found. So, preferably keep N1 + N2 smaller than 45.
Role, assignment and checklists
When reviewing, stick to your role. Don’t try to review from an other role’s perspective. You know best what’s good for you, let others decide for themselves. On beforehand, think of what the document must contain, how it should fit in your role’s ‘truth’ and what you need the document for.
Sometimes the moderator will add a specific assignment to the review request. Stick to that assignment or inform the moderator if you can not comply to the assignment.
For some roles, and for some persons, a checklist might be useful. It can be a (dynamic) checklist aimed at specific attention points, for example to check that previously agreements have been met. Checklist aimed at checking standardization or template use belong to the authors and should not be used for reviewing.