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Humanities LibreTexts

8.3: Peer review

  • Page ID
    25415
    • Alexandra Glynn, Kelli Hallsten-Erickson & Amy Jo Swing
    • North Hennepin Community College & Lake Superior College

    Peer review is getting feedback from others.

    Peer review can be very formal, like in a composition class where you have two or three other students read your essay draft and give suggestions on how to improve it, or where you give it to a colleague to review before you give it to your mutual boss.

    It could also be more informal. For example, you could have your friend’s girlfriend who is an English major look over your essay and give you ideas or point out errors or inconsistencies. You might even use a campus writing center for feedback or an online tutoring center like Smarthinking or Tutor.com.

    Are you writing in a work setting? If so, your colleagues or supervisor will provide valuable feedback.

    It’s important to realize that getting feedback is not the same as plagiarism or cheating. When you ask for a review, you are asking for a response from a reader. You should not ask someone else to “fix” or rewrite the paper for you.

    Having someone else look at your writing is essential. You can write, revise, edit, proofread, then write more, revise more, edit more, proofread more, etc., and you will still miss errors in your own writing. Even wildly famous writers (especially wildly famous authors!) like Stephen King and J. K. Rowling rely on others to help them revise, polish, and perfect their writing.

    So what does peer review entail? It means asking the right questions of your reader and being willing to accept constructive criticism. Many people hear the words critic, critical, and criticism and pick up only negative vibes that provoke feelings that make them blush, grumble, or shout. As a writer and a thinker, though, you need to learn to be critical of yourself in a positive way and have high expectations for your work. Having others see your work will help with this.

    Here are some ideas a peer reviewer might use to help you improve your work:

    1. Who is the audience and what is the purpose of this essay? Does it fit the content of the paper? The reviewer might point to places where the content could connect better with audience and purpose.
    2. Is the thesis statement clear? Is it interesting (to the audience), specific, and well worded? The reviewer might suggest revisions to the thesis to improve it. If it is an argument making a claim with supports to the claim (thesis), often the peer reviewer can give counter-arguments that they think of.
    3. Are the paragraphs well organized with a clear focus or topic sentence? Are they in a logical order? Do the ideas in the paragraphs tie back to the thesis? The reviewer might suggest how to improve the paragraphs and organization.
    4. Are there specific examples, facts, and/or support in the body of the essay? The reviewer might make suggestions for additional examples and support.
    5. Are the sentences interesting, effective, varied and well-crafted? Are any sentences weak? Confusing? Awkward? Uninteresting? The reviewer might make suggestions for making sentences more effective.
    6. Are any words weak, vague, or unclear? Do any words need to be defined? Are the words active? Are any words possibly offensive to the intended audience? The peer reviewer might point out ineffective and vague or unneeded words.
    7. The peer reviewer might mark any grammar, spelling, or syntax errors on the draft itself.
    8. The peer reviewer could suggest two additional improvements that the author could make before turning in the final draft (like title, one, etc.).
    9. The peer reviewer might ask: Am I laughing, thinking, being amazed, really looking at something in a new way, as I read this? What is the big take-away that I am seeing?

    Once you receive feedback from others (the more the better), then you can sift through it to see what is helpful. You might find contradictions at times: one reader might love your conclusion while another might think it’s uninteresting. In the end, you can decide how to change and shape your writing.

    The great thing about peer review is that it helps you look more closely at things. For example, you might decide parts of your conclusion are good but that you need to add a story at the end to engage the reader.

    Sample quick peer review sheet:

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