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Principles of Scholarly Review

The Anna Karenina Principle “All happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Thus begins Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel Anna Karenina. By this Tolstoy meant that several key qualities were necessary for a marriage to be happy. The Anna Karenina Principle has been applied to other areas to indicate that multiple specific qualities must be present for an enterprise or process to succeed.
Much as a skilled athlete or proficient musician makes difficult tasks look natural and almost effortless to the casual observer, the processes of a quality scholarly review are may escape the casual reader. As we learn from the Anna Karenina Principle, a review which does not meet the required standards does not function as a piece of scholarship. Merely completing a university education or publishing scholarly articles does not quality one as a competent reviewer. Even established scholars sometimes underestimate the skill and competency needed to perform a proper review.