Unfortunately, many student writers see peer review as a waste of time. Let’s face it, reading your classmates’ drafts—and having them read yours—can be awkward and unproductive. However, peer workshop sessions don’t have to be a painful ordeal. Giving and receiving constructive feedback on a work in progress is one of the best ways to fine-tune your own writing. Here are a few suggestions to follow for a positive peer-review experience:
- Mix praise with constructive feedback. Your peers want to know what they’re doing well, but they’re also interested in improving their work. Be honest yet tactful.
- Avoid giving generic or vague comments like “nice job,” “make it longer,” “you should get an ‘A’ on this,” “I like your font,” etc. Instead, identify specific passages or points that you like as a reader. If you have concerns, offer concrete suggestions: “Have you considered adding ______ to your conclusion?” “Would it help to switch the order of the paragraphs on page two?” “Can you tell your readers more about _______?” etc.
- You might see your role as simply a corrector as you read your classmates’ drafts. However, viewing yourself as a reader will allow you to offer so much more to your peers. A reader can convey what it was like to experience a piece of writing. Grammar and punctuation are certainly important, but all writers want to know if they’ve connected with their audience.
- Don’t be afraid to write in the margins. Leave some time at the end to read these comments and have a short conversation with your peers. You’ll need time as a group to clarify points and have some discussion about the papers you’ve just critiqued (groups of three to four tend to work best for peer review).
- If you need a starting point, follow the PQS model for responding to classmates’ work: Praise, Questions, Suggestions.