Sensory Evaluation

Guidelines for the Preparation and Review of Papers Reporting Sensory Evaluation Data

Updated January 30, 2014

The Sensory and Food Quality section of JFS publishes original and applied research related to the sensory and quality aspect of foods, beverages, ingredients, and research about the perceptual process. Researchers considering submitting manuscripts or initiating research with intent of submitting to this section should familiarize themselves first with the general guidelines provided by the journal and those described here prepared by the Scientific Editor and Associate Editors, and with information provided by the Sensory and Consumer Sciences Division of IFT (J Food Sci., 67(9):3553 (2002)). These are intended to serve as a tutorial for authors as they prepare their manuscripts, reflecting what reviewers will be looking for as they go through the review process. Researchers not directly involved in sensory or quality testing are advised to consult with associates in the field and/or read current texts cited in the aforementioned guidelines.

For manuscripts focused on sensory quality, authors must be sure that their manuscripts not only include the basic required elements (title page, abstract, introduction, objective(s), materials and methods, results and discussion, and conclusions) but also give particular attention to defining what is meant by “quality” as used in their research. Authors should not assume that reviewers and interested readers understand what is meant by quality without actually defining quality. Quality possesses both subjective and objective characteristics and can be defined in many ways and from many different perspectives.  The concept of food quality differs at each stage of the food system. What defines quality at the production level is not the same as quality at the manufacturing level, and quality will differ once again in the eyes of the consumer.  The production definition of quality requires more objective measures aimed at obtaining consistency among like products. In the sensory field, quality is a theoretical construct not a physical entity with a fixed time or position.  Food quality perception is primarily involved with the consumer, and judgment of quality will vary significantly among people.  For example, consumer quality may be defined as the liking score for a product at a cost that consumer is willing to pay, or it could be the liking score as a function of purchase intent.  The aim of quality control is to achieve as consistent a standard of quality in the product being produced as is compatible with the market for which it is designed, and the price at which it will sell. Without any explanation or operational definition of quality, reviewers will return the manuscript requesting additional information and this will delay the review process.

For manuscripts involving sensory testing, researchers must provide sufficient details about the evaluation process to enable reviewers and readers to follow each experiment without extensive checking of cited literature. Failure to properly describe a test will result in the manuscript being returned to the authors. The following is intended to provide you with examples of the kinds of information that would be expected in describing your research:

  • Describe test method 

For discrimination/difference testing it might be threshold – absolute or recognition, paired comparison, duo-trio, triangle, n-AFC (n-alternative forced choice), etc.

For descriptive analysis testing it might be Flavor Profile®, Texture Profile®, QDA®, Spectrum Analysis®, Free Choice Profiling, etc.

For affective testing it might be the 9-pt hedonic scale, paired comparison, labelled affective magnitude (LAM) scale, etc.

In those instances where a different method is used, a complete description must be provided.

  • Describe the subjects

Describe the basis on which the subjects were selected (employees or non-employees) and qualified to participate.

For discrimination testing about 20 to 30 subjects should be sufficient (with replication for a total of 40 to 60 judgments).

For descriptive analysis about 10 to 12 subjects should be sufficient.

For affective testing about 75 subjects or more should be sufficient.

The decision as to the number of subjects in a test will depend in part on the type of test, the expected skill level of the subjects, the anticipated magnitude of the difference among the products, and the past experience testing with the particular products, if appropriate.

For studies employing descriptive analysis techniques, statements such as, “subjects were experienced and considered trained” or “subjects were semi-trained” are inadequate.  Authors must include a description of the screening/qualifying and training process.   Failure to include this information will result in a request for clarification.

  • Describe the experimental design

A brief statement as to type of test; e.g., a treatment-by-treatment design etc., the number of times each subject scored each product, the serving order, and any other relevant information

  • Describe the test protocol

Include a brief description of product preparation, serving size, interval between samples, test location, etc.

  • Describe the statistical analysis

A brief description of each analysis; e.g., ANOVA, PCA, Regression, etc. is necessary as part of the reviewing process.

  • Reporting
Summary tables of results are essential; e.g., means, variance measures, values and significance will enable reviewers to determine the value of the information. Results and conclusions should be consistent with the objectives as stated in the manuscript Introduction.

The Editor and Associate Editors make every effort to assist authors with their submissions. In those situations where published methods are not being used, authors need to provide sufficient details to enable the Editor and AEs to determine that the manuscript can move forward with a review.

Our goal is to insure that your research efforts are rewarded.