Checklist for an effective review - AHRC

This checklist was collated from college members’ responses to what constitutes an effective review. Reviewers may find the checklist a helpful guide for providing a high quality review.

Preparation for review

Before starting your review:

  • ensure you read the entire proposal thoroughly
  • familiarise yourself with the strategic aims of AHRC and the aims of the scheme for the proposal you are assessing
  • be aware of the full range of grades and their descriptors at your disposal and contact staff at AHRC if anything is unclear.


  • be realistic about your own confidence and expertise. Provide clear evidence of your own expertise in the subject area and state if you’re unsure about something
  • always provide evidence to support your observations. Use only the information provided in the application form
  • take into account the information you are being asked to provide under each review form heading. Ensure sufficient detail is provided for each one
  • give a clear assessment of strengths and weaknesses of the proposal and indicate whether these are major or minor concerns
  • provide an evaluation of the risks associated with the project
  • contextualise the proposal that you are reviewing within current work in the field, and comment on its relative importance and significance
  • identify any inconsistencies and contradictions in the proposal
  • identify issues needing clarification by the applicant in their response
  • in the case of interdisciplinary applications: do the different disciplines meet up in a coherent way?
  • provide enough information to enable a judgement on the relative quality of this proposal compared to other applications
  • be receptive to new ideas and approaches to thinking within your discipline as well as methodology.


  • provide an impartial, objective, fair and analytical assessment of the proposal you are reviewing
  • avoid overly negative comments and do not include any personal comments
  • make constructive criticism wherever possible, identifying how any issues could be realistically addressed by the principal investigator
  • ensure you are providing an evaluation, not a description of the work proposed
  • ensure that the language you use is clear and jargon-free. Could your review be understood by a non-expert?
  • is your grade justified by, and consistent with, your comments?
  • could a non-expert make a final grading decision based upon your review?

The proposal you are asked to review includes a case for support. In some instances, the case for support may include a link to a website containing information on the research proposed. Reviewers are not required to consider this additional information when providing comments on a proposal. If you do choose to look at this information, note that it is possible that your anonymity to the applicant may be compromised.

Last updated: 28 February 2022

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