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I'm glad this topic is being brought up. I also do 1, 3, and 4. I do not "find as many nice things to say about the paper as I possibly can." However, I do normally list a sentence or two about what I think works well. 6 also seems like an ideal worth aspiring to.

However, given my verdict, I think of my audience differently. If I am recommending rejection, I think of my audience as the editors and my task is to justify my decision. I don't think of my task as helping to improve the paper. If I am recommending acceptance or 'revise and resubmit,' I think of my audience as also including the author and I do make recommendations (or requirements) for improvement. I wonder if this practice is common.

Neil Levy

This more or less reflects my practice with the exception of (3), and I would hate to see (3) established as a convention (such that if the reviewer devotes little attention to an idea, we are justified in inferring she thinks that idea plays a small role in the paper. That might be a reason to think she hasn't understood it and to downgrade her report).

My report will focus on the problems with the paper, and identify ways they might be fixed. That entails that huge tracts of the paper might not receive any attention. If I think they're fine as they stand, I won't mention them (except insofar as they might be mentioned in the first para, summarizing the overall argument). Time and space are limited, and I certainly don't want to waste my time and the author's time on repeating the good parts of the paper at sufficient length to ensure its place in my report matches its place in her paper.

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