How Should I Approach Peer Review?

At some point in one's college career, a student is likely to engage in peer review, both as a reader and as a recipient of feedback. This is a good practice since, at its best, peer review can provide readers and writers with an opportunity to identify strong points and overall values in a paper, describe what they understand as a text's main purpose, ask important questions, and suggest points to revise throughout the writing process (Chisholm 11-12). It is also an effective and widely-used tool in the workplace. Occasionally, a writer may be surprised to find that her intended main argument isn't carrying across to the reader or that there is special value in a particular claim or theme that calls for greater emphasis in future drafts. Here's a list of guiding questions that may help peer reviewers provide the most helpful assistance possible, especially as they look to avoid a process that focuses solely on local concerns, like punctuation and verb agreement. Such a system engages in constructive criticism but also emphasizes a text's strengths.

Guiding Questions for Peer Review:

Global concerns first….

1) In one sentence, what do you think is the main point of this paper?

2) What are some apparent goals that the author has successfully accomplished within this paper?

3) Do you have any major structural or big-picture suggestions? For example:

-Does the author use appropriate evidence to back up his or her points? Briefly draw out what
you understand to be the text’s thesis, claims, and evidence model or other governing
structure(s) employed by the author.

-Are the sources and citation format appropriate for this type of paper?

-Are there areas that the author needs to reconceive in the revision process?

-Are the ideas presented in the opening and closing pages of the draft effective in engaging
the intended audience?

4) How does this paper relate to other topics within the class? Does the author establish the broader implications of what he or she is writing about?

5) What thematic questions does this paper raise for you? Is there anything that is unclear?

6) Are there areas of strength that beg for further development? Conversely, are there pieces that should be faded into the background?

And then local…

7) Are there are stylistic recommendations that you would make? (e.g., tone, word choice, sentence structure)

8) Are there any recurring grammatical, spelling, punctuation, and/or syntax issues that need to be addressed? Don't go through and copy-edit, but identify major problems and talk about the rules that the author could use to correct them.

Works Cited: Chisholm, Richard. "Introducing Students to Peer Review of Writing." Writing Across the Curriculum, Vol. III, no 1.

Written by Matt McCluskey, Coordinator of Academic Support