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, weâ€™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 youâ€™re discussing your writing.
Try not to get defensive. Be grateful for your readerâ€™s time and attention.
At the same time, donâ€™t feel obligated to take all of your readerâ€™s advice. Remember that readersâ€™ opinions may differ and that youâ€™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 writerâ€™s essay carefully.
Respond as a reader, pointing out where things donâ€™t make sense, read smoothly, etc.
Be positive. Point out strengths as well as weaknesses, and be sensitive in how you phrase your criticism (â€œCould you clarify this section?â€� rather than â€œYour organization is a mess.â€�)
Be honest. Donâ€™t say something works when it doesnâ€™t. Youâ€™re not helping the writer if you avoid mentioning a problem.
Be specific. Rather than simply saying a paragraph is â€œconfusing,â€� for example, try to point to a specific phrase that confuses you and, if possible, explain why that phrase is problematic.