Handout for Effective Peer Review
Consider distributing or adapting the following handout to share with students to encourage effective peer-review strategies:
All writers, even professional writers, need others to read and comment on their writing. As writers, we're often too close to our work to spot problems a helpful reader can point out. In order to benefit from the insight of such a reader, follow these strategies:
- Come to the workshop with your best possible draft.
- Alert your reader to any concerns you have before they begin to read.
- Ask questions and take notes as you're discussing your writing.
- Try not to get defensive. Be grateful for your reader's time and attention.
- At the same time, don't feel obligated to take all of your reader's advice. Remember that readers' opinions may differ and that you're ultimately responsible for your paper.
Remember that your role as a writer is only part of your workshop contribution. The above strategies are most effective when your paper is reviewed by a helpful reader. You have an opportunity to be that kind of reader for others by observing the following guidelines as you review their writing:
- Ask the writer what you can be looking for as you read their essay.
- Read the writer's essay carefully.
- Respond as a reader, pointing out where things don't make sense, read smoothly, etc.
- Be positive. Point out strengths as well as weaknesses, and be sensitive in how you phrase your criticism ("Could you clarify this section?" rather than "Your organization is a mess.")
- Be honest. Don't say something works when it doesn't. You're not helping the writer if you avoid mentioning a problem.
- Be specific. Rather than simply saying a paragraph is "confusing," for example, try to point to a specific phrase that confuses you and, if possible, explain why that phrase is problematic.
- Focus on one or two major areas for revision.
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