Students tend to have a love or hate relationship to peer review. Some have had wonderful, helpful, rich histories with classmates offering feedback on their work; others have the perspective that peer review is pointless.
When it works, both giving and receiving peer feedback can be a great learning opportunity. If you look at other people’s work in progress, you undoubtedly get some ideas about how you could do something different or better in your own draft. But even if you are looking at a draft that is weaker than yours, you may learn a lot: about what writing looks like when it is not working, perhaps why it is not working, or even what specific choices or revisions that writer could make to strengthen the draft. Identifying what makes things work – so important in the learning process – can be hard to detect in our own work.
Remember that in peer review, you don’t need to cast judgment on a classmate’s work.
You don’t need to take on the role of a “grader” or offer suggestions to fix the paper. You don’t need to correct things. Sometimes, what is more valuable is if you share your experience as a reader of the draft, explaining what felt easy and clear to you, and also where you struggled to understand what the writer was trying to accomplish. Be honest, accurate, detailed, and descriptive. Write in such a way that you offer your genuine readerly perspective to your partner, not a list of directions or directives.
Rhetorical Reading Questions for Peer Feedback
The use of rhetorical reading questions can offer feedback on the effectiveness of the text-in-progress. Ask yourself the following while reading your own or a peer’s draft:
- What is the writer’s main point? Can you see what your partner’s main point is in this draft? Is the point held consistently throughout the text, or did you get lost while reading at any point? If so, can you point out where reference to or reiteration of to the main point would have helped your reading experience?
- What information does the writer provide to support the central idea? Did you need more information to feel like the central idea was well supported? Do all paragraphs relate to the text’s central idea?
- What kind of evidence does the writer use? Is it based more on fact or opinion? Can you clearly identify where this evidence come from? Are the sources authoritative and credible?
- Is the writer working towards achieving the assignment’s purpose? This is a question that is easiest to answerif you fully understand the assignment’s purpose. What are the goals of the assignment? What are the goals of this particular writer? Do those goals overlap?
- Describe the tone in the draft. Is it friendly? Authoritative? Does it lecture? Is it biting or sarcastic? Does the author use simple language, or is it full of jargon? Does the language feel positive or negative? Now, consider the audience for this essay. Does the tone seem appropriate for that audience?
Using “I” statements to offer feedback on others’ work
Offer observations of assignment goals met/not met
- I see your thesis at the end of your intro paragraph
- I see transition phrases at the beginning of each new paragraph
- I can see that you ___________, which is a goal of this paper
- In your ________ paragraph I see….but I do not see….
- I do not see a Works Cited
Express your experience as a reader
- My understanding is that the thesis of this paper should _______. I did not clearly see ______ in your thesis. Instead, I see (explain).
- I was confused by this sentence (share the sentence) and I took it to mean (explain how you read that sentence).
- In paragraph ______ I thought that, based on what you said in the first sentence, the whole paragraph would discuss X. But it looks to me like at the end of the paragraph, you begin discussing Y, which felt to me like a new and different idea.
Express places where, as a reader, you were drawn in to the writing
- I thought that the second paragraph was really clear and interesting because….
- I like the way that you structured paragraph X because ….
- I appreciate your use of (signal phrases? citations? MLA format? transitions? etc) because I have been struggling with that in my own writing. Thanks for the example
Phrases that can be ineffective
These types of phrases are telling the writer what to do and/or simply offering judgment. They are “you” statements, not “I” statements. Try to avoid these types of peer assessment phrases:
You should fix _____ The assignment says to _____, but you didn't do that You need more _____ You need less _____ To make the paper better, you need to _____