Peer Review: Studying the Major Otolaryngology Journals

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To determine if the otolaryngology literature is comparable to other surgical specialty journals with respect to quality and types of articles published.


The four major otolaryngology journals-Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology, Archives of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Laryngoscope, and Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery-were studied for 6-months and examined for the following variables: 1) proportion of clinical or basic science research, 2) proportion of prospective or retrospective studies, 3) types of statistics used, 4) sample sizes of the studies, and 5) proportion of single case reports. A composite group of surgical specialty journals consisting of Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Neurosurgery, and Ophthalmology was also studied for the same time period. The otolaryngology journals and other specialty journals were compared with respect to each of these variables, after which the comparison was conducted within the group of otolaryngology journals.


Analysis of 905 articles, comprising 508 articles from the four major otolaryngology journals and 397 articles from the composite of the other specialty journals, was conducted. No significant difference in the proportion of single case reports between the otolaryngology journals (15.0%) and the other specialty journals (12.8%) was noted (P = .364). The otolaryngology journals had a significantly higher proportion of basic research than the other specialty journals (27.4% vs. 14.5%, P < .001) as well as a higher percentage of prospective studies (62.1% vs. 49.0%, P = .001). The studies in the otolaryngology journals had a much lower mean sample size than those in the other specialty journals (70.2 vs. 373.8, P = .010). No difference between the two groups was found in the use of statistics (P = .228). Among the otolaryngology journals, Laryngoscope was found to publish fewer single case reports than the other three journals, and Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology had the highest proportion of prospective studies (P = .031 and .012, respectively). No differences were found for sample sizes and use of statistical analysis (P = .266 and P .710, respectively) among the otolaryngology journals.


The otolaryngology literature compares quite favorably with the literature of other surgical specialties, excelling in prospective studies and basic science research. It only lags with respect to sample size. The study composition among the different major otolaryngology journals is largely similar with respect to basic study parameters, suggesting comparable quality among the journals.

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