Peer Review: theory and practice

Printable version of Peer Review: theory and practice (PDF).


Peer review is one of a number of revision and proofreading strategies available to you. While there are many ways to structure peer review sessions, at its core, this technique involves soliciting feedback on one or more aspects of your writing from classmates or colleagues.

Peer Review: Purpose and Scope

Purpose

interact, models, concrete advice, and think and learn

While peer review has the obvious benefit of getting feedback on your writing, it also has benefits for the person doing the reviewing:

  • We become better writers by being diligent peer reviewers
  • We learn good writing habits by writing often and by reading the writing of others
  • Giving feedback requires us to think carefully – not only about what we think about someone’s writing, but also about how writing is constructed and why we are making specific suggestions.

Scope

It is up to individual peer review groups to determine what aspects of writing a given session (or series of sessions) will look at. Broadly speaking, the following aspects of writing are the ones that you could potentially focus on:

  • Content: arguments, analysis, logic, evidence
  • Structure: organization, transitions, connections
  • Style: tone, word choice, formality
  • Mechanics: punctuation, sentence structure, spelling

General Tip:Avoid the urge to focus initially or primarily on mechanics. The revision and proofreading process will be more effective when you focus on higher-order concerns (content and structure) first and lower-order concerns (style and mechanics) second. See our handouts on revision and proofreading for more strategies that you can use.

Done correctly, the peer review process is a social, productive, and engaging way of participating in your discipline’s community of practice. However, though some instructors or supervisors will encourage their students to work together in a peer review process, others may require that projects be completed independently. In order to avoid any issues around academic integrity, make sure to consult with your instructor or supervisor before engaging in peer review.


Peer Review: Spaces

There are lots of spaces available for conducting peer review, including the following:

Face-to-Face

  • Classroom
  • Coffee shop
  • Someone’s home

Online

  • Skype
  • Google Hangouts
  • Google Docs
  • Portal

Peer Review: Practice

Steps in Peer Review

explain what to look for, exchange, feedback for improvement, and discuss and plan 

  1. Write notes for your reviewer on the peer review sheet and exchange papers. If you are not using a peer review sheet, discuss the specific questions or concerns that you’d like your reviewer to pay attention to.
  2. Read actively and critically. Make notes in the margins of the paper or in the track changes feature if using Word. If using a review sheet, make general notes there, too.
  3. Return the paper (and the review sheet, if you used one) to the original writer; discuss the feedback and create an action plan for revision and proofreading.

Sample Peer Review Worksheet

Feel free to adapt the template of a peer review worksheet below to suit your needs (printable version of Peer Review Worksheet (PDF).


Peer Review Marking Sheet

Name of Writer:

Name of Reviewer:

Notes from the writer to the reviewer:

Aspect of Writing Being Reviewed: Content / Structure / Style / Mechanics

Component Needs significant work Needs some work Needs little/no work
Criteria 1
(e.g., Clear thesis statement)
     
Criteria 2
(e.g., Specific topic sentences)
     
Criteria 3
(e.g., Use of transition words or phrases)
     

Additional comments on writing:

Post-Review Discussion

Action Plan: How will you (the writer) incorporate the suggestions of your reviewer into your edits? What steps will you take during the editing process? Be specific:

  1.  
  2.  
  3.  

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