Annals of Improbable Research, Vol. 6, No. 5, pg. 10.

How To Write A Scientific Referee Report

A review of Bomby The Bombardier Beetle, written by Hazel Mae Rue, illustrated by Sandy Morton, published by the Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon, California, 1984, ISBN 0-932766-13-7, 40 pages.

Dear Editor:

On June 21, 1983, I received the manuscript Bomby the Bombardier Beetle, by H. M. Rue, R. B. Bliss, and S. Thornton. As I consider refereeing to be a high priority, I put it on top of my To Do pile. But June was a busy month for me, and my To Do pile got so big that I had to start another pile. To make a long story short, the manuscript has just now made its way to the top of the pile. Enclosed please find my referee report. I hope that the slight delay has not inconvenienced you. As the authors may be disappointed by my evaluation of their work, I decline to waive anonymity for this report.


I have four major problems with this manuscript, any one of which is sufficient to preclude my recommending its publication. The manuscript is scientifically inaccurate, pedagogically inappropriate, stylistically flawed, and has a poor glossary. I think it unlikely that the authors could correct these problems and I recommend that they be dissuaded from resubmitting this manuscript to you or any other editor. My detailed comments are below.


The manuscript is rife with scientific errors. As I don't have time to list them all, I picked four at random to discuss below:


The manuscript is developmentally inappropriate for the target audience. Not only is it is text-dense, it contains a nugatory plethora of obfuscative vocabulary. Combined with its lack of narrative quality, the end result is a work of extremely limited educational value. In addition, the text discourages children from speaking in class, completely ignoring the recent educational paradigm shift to active learning techniques that encourage questions from students.


The authors used a sans-serif font for both the headings and the text. Serif type should always be used in the main text. The authors used left justification in the main text. The main text should always be fully justified. Finally--and most egregiously--the authors used two spaces after each period, when one space is correct. And why did the authors create the acronym TB for tiger beetle on page 13 if they weren't going to use it again?


This is probably the worst glossary I've read in my entire career (the best glossary can be found in A Briefer History of Time, by a noted scientist and humorist whose name escapes me at the moment). Errors in the glossary of "Bomby the Bombardier Beetle" include omissions (e.g. "wise" is in bold on page 8 but is not listed in the glossary; "wraps" and "weaving" are also in bold but not defined in the glossary), incorrect definitions (e.g. "acids" are defined as "sour, tart"), incompleteness (e.g., "hydroquinone" is defined merely as "white sweetish compound"), tense mismatches (e.g., "catalogued" is defined as "arrange and list in order"), inadequate recursive defining (e.g., "army" is defined as "organized soldiers," but "soldiers" is not defined), and insidiousness (e.g. "pretend" is defined as "to claim falsely").