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Single-blind vs. Double-blind Peer Review

We're sure you've heard of peer review. Peer review is commonly found in classrooms and other academic settings and sometimes even work settings. Although you may be wondering why you have to spend time peer reviewing your peer's essay on ocean pollution when you should be focusing on your own work, there are undeniable advantages to peer review.

What is peer review? Peer review is the process whereby one person, the reviewer, reads and evaluates the academic research of another person, the writer. Although we said you were probably familiar with this process from school, this process is implemented in the academic research field. Reviewers evaluate the research written by writers, offering constructive feedback on the work to increase content quality and improve accuracy. The two most common forms of peer review are single-blind peer review and double-blind peer review. We can start with defining single-blind peer review.

Single-blind peer review

Single-blind peer review is the most traditional form of peer review. In single-blind peer reviews, reviewers know the identity of the author, but the author does not the know the identity of the reviewers. There are advantages and disadvantages to any peer review system, so let's begin by exploring those pros and cons for a single-blind peer review.


If you've ever been subjected to peer reviewing in class, you know that it can be a bit nerve-wracking. What if you get paired up with your friend and find their paper to be riddled with errors and limited analysis? How are you supposed to critique their paper without worrying about hurting their feelings? Single-blind peer review takes this concern away. A single-blind peer review is:

  • Pressure-free: In a single-blind peer review, the authors have no influence on the reviewers because they do not know the reviewers' identities. This puts less pressure on the reviewers, as they can examine the paper with a more objective, critical lens because they do not have to fear or anticipate any kind of backlash from the writer. This also protects the integrity of the review process because the writer cannot bribe the reviewer to go easy on their paper during the review process. So, the next time you conduct this kind of peer review remember your identity is protected and there is no need to worry about hurting your peers' feelings. Instead, you can focus entirely on leaving recommendations for them to improve their writing.
  • Honest: The real advantage lies in the openness with which reviewers can review the work. Complete honesty throughout the review process makes for real, helpful feedback. In turn, this feedback will help improve the writer's future writing. This helps the writer actually improve in their research and writing process, making future work better. Honesty also helps to build a general trust in the peer review system, so reviewers and writers, alike, will feel confident throughout the process.


Although writers do not have access to the identities of their reviewers, the reviewers know the identity of the writer. This opens the floor to a large debate about single-blind peer reviews. A couple disadvantages of single-blind peer reviews are:

  • Opportunity for bias: Whether it is intentional or implicit bias, reviewers may have particular bias surrounding gender, race, sexuality, and other identity factors. As such, a reviewer's critique may not be fair. For example, a review may be overly harsh or too lenient if a male reviewer is biased against a female writer. Reviewers may also be biased towards a writer if they are familiar with their previous work, preventing them from making a fair, critical review.
  • Lack of improvement: Bias is bad in any sense, but it is also harmful in the review process because it can impede improvement. Not only is the writer being judged for his/her identity, but his/her work is not being fairly assessed. Writers will not improve if their work is not honestly and fairly critiqued by a reviewer, so single-blind peer reviews can leave room for both bias and stagnation.

Do you think the disadvantages outweigh the advantages? If that's the case, then you might be more interested in a double-blind peer review, which we will review (get it?) next.

Double-blind peer review

Although single-blind peer reviews are the most popular form of peer review, double-blind peer reviews are arguably better. In fact, a study conducted by the Publishing Research Consortium (PRC), 71% of respondents said they were confident in the effectiveness of double-blind peer reviews. This is because, in double-blind peer reviews, the identities of the author and the reviewer are both hidden, eliminating some of the bias present in a single-blind peer review. Now, let's examine some of the advantages and disadvantages of double-blind peer reviews.


One advantage of choosing a double-blind peer review is the elimination of much of the bias that remains with single-blind peer review. As with single-blind peer reviews, the writers do not know the identities of the reviewers, so the reviewers do not have to fear backlash or confrontation with the writer. However, single-blind peer reviews leave the writers more vulnerable to the reviewers because their identities are known. Double-blind peer reviews minimize this because the reviewers do not know the identities of the writers.

As such, the reviewers cannot judge the writing based on the identity of the writer, helping to eliminate gender and race bias, amongst other biases. For example, overly positive bias is less likely to be a problem in double-blind reviews. The status of the writer is not known because of the writer's hidden identity, so the reviewers are able to fairly and accurately assess their work without considering previous achievements.


The disadvantages of double-blind peer reviews lie in the effectiveness, or ineffectiveness, of the blindness of the review. What we mean by this is some research communities are very small, so writers know each other and their writing well. If a community is small enough, a reviewer may be able to recognize the identity of the writer based solely on the way they write, the research they are conducting, or any past research they reference. If the writers want to remain completely anonymous in this type of review, then they may have to remove any specific information alluding to their identity from their writing. In turn, this could decrease the quality of their new work.

Ethics of peer review

Whether you are involved in a single-blind peer review or a double-blind peer review, there are rules and codes of conduct that all reviewers and writers should follow. Ethics are a huge point of discussion in academia, and it is of the utmost importance to make ethical decisions regarding research. Some of the key things to keep in mind when conducting any kind of peer review include:

  • Confidentiality: Just because the reviewer may know the identity of the writer does not mean they are at liberty to reveal the writer's name or work. Reviewers must keep that information private to protect the writer's identity and work, so others are not able to steal ideas or take credit for work that is not theirs. In single-blind peer reviews, reviewers should also not reveal their own identities to the writer before, during, or after the editing process. This minimizes backlash against the reviewer and limits communication between the reviewer and writer.
  • Objectivity: Reviewers must avoid any type of bias. Bias does not just apply to part of a writer's identity such as race, gender, or ethnicity. These are the things we are most likely to associate with the word bias, but bias can extend beyond a person's identity and into the topic, directly. Reviewers should not be biased against a particular research topic or the results. Whether the reviewer likes or dislikes the topic being pursued should not matter at all in the editing process. Reviewers must also avoid positive bias, meaning they should not edit according to favoritism. In the case of single-blind peer review, the reviewer knows the identity of the author and therefore may be influenced to edit their work more positively based on the writer's past published works or other familiar factors. As such, a reviewer must disclose any type of relationship to the writer or the content of the work to minimize conflicts of interest.
  • Provide specific recommendations: You may have learned this during a peer review process in class, but feedback needs to be substantial. What we mean by this is don't simply provide short encouragements such as "Great job" or vague recommendations like "check your grammar" or "add something here." While good grammar is essential to any kind of writing, your focus should gear more towards the content. If you think the paper would benefit from more research, you should point to specific evidence, articles, or experiments instead of simply stating that more research/evidence is necessary. Reviewers should aim to be as specific as possible in their recommendations, so the paper is as clear and well-developed as possible.
  • Be respectful: This one may seem obvious, but we think it's always important to note. Reviewers should be sure to always keep their tone respectful. This is necessary to maintain professionalism and to provide quality feedback. Remember, you are providing your expert opinion as feedback, so you should act like a fellow academic.

Final Review

Now that you've learned the difference between single-blind peer reviews and double-blind peer reviews and some of the advantages and disadvantages of each, you can determine for yourself which method best suits you and your research. As a writer and a reviewer, you should always remember these three takeaways from everything we have discussed: be objective, be specific, and be honest.

Header photo from LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS.

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