American Society of Naturalists

A membership society whose goal is to advance and to diffuse knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles so as to enhance the conceptual unification of the biological sciences.

Best Practices Checklist for Authors and Reviewers

Posted on by Dan Bolnick

A number of journals have introduced checklists in recent years, aimed at either reviewers or authors. The Editorial Board of The American Naturalist is adopting a checklist as well. It is for the use of authors and reviewers and not for submission to the journal.

The intent is to remind authors of items that reviewers (and readers) expect in a paper. It may also serve to remind reviewers of things they should look for, but which often get overlooked. Because we receive both a mix of theory and data and synthesis and meta-analysis papers, there is no one-size-fits-all checklist.



A paper by Parker et al (2018. “Empowering peer reviewers with a checklist to improve transparency”, Nature Ecology and Evolution) advocated greater use of checklists in evaluating research publications. They argue that “Good checklists do not replace complex thought; they facilitate it. … by calling attention to essential elements that are often overlooked”. Here, we provide a set of checklists tailored to the diverse kinds of papers submitted to The American Naturalist. Authors and reviewers are not required to use this checklist, but it may help each identify common weaknesses that need to be fixed. Not all items in the following checklist pertain to all studies. It is the job of the authors and reviewers to judge what elements apply to any given study. The checklist is therefore not meant to be a straight-jacket, but rather a prompt to remind us what authors should aspire to do, and what reviewers should check for. The checklists below do not cover methods, syntheses, historical perspectives, and some other articles that are also welcome at this journal.


The checklists are designed to remind you of key features that maximize transparency of your work and that reviewers look for in evaluating your work. We encourage you to examine relevant parts of this checklist before submissionof a new manuscript, or during revision, to ensure that you are meeting our expectations. Using this checklist may help you pre-emptively avoid common reviewer critiques. Authors should also visit the journal webpage for formatting details:


You may find the checklist to be a useful reminder of manuscript features to comment on, including somewhat mundane details that authors frequently forget to include (and reviewers frequently forget to check for).

1:   General considerations
2:   Articles with empirical data
3:   Articles with meta-analysis
4:   Articles with theory
5:   Submission Formatting

Download Manuscript Checklist PDF


Data Procedures

See also the Data Procedures in the Instructions to Authors and download the Data Checklist.