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Peer Review Guidelines

Every writer knows the feeling of getting so close to the writing that it's impossible to look at the piece objectively. The notoriously difficult process of evaluating one's own writing is especially hard immediately after one completes a draft. That's why it's wise-essential, in fact--to allow a couple of days of "cooling off" before tackling a revision.

It's also wise to get an evaluation from a peer such as a classmate or a person you trust-- someone with an educational background appropriate to your writing. Since peer evaluations are commonly used in the writing classroom, let's approach the process of peer review this way: What would you like to hear from an evaluator?

"Praise, and plenty of it!" is the universal answer that I hear from my students.

But peers usually review preliminary drafts or even rough drafts, and the purpose of such reviews is to improve the work. Praise may feel good, but constructive criticism is really much more useful.

My point is that how you review a classmate's work depends upon when you are doing the reviewing. In The Research Process I suggest guidelines for peer reviews at two different points in the writing process:

  1. An evaluation of a rough draft should focus primarily on revising, which is to say, it should pay attention primarily to such major components of the paper as the thesis sentence, the support for the thesis, and the organization. It should praise the draft's strengths, but it should provide mostly suggestions for improvement.

  2. An evaluation of a preliminary draft should focus not just on revising but also on editing, which is to say, it should pay more detailed attention to transitions, style, diction, and mechanics. It should praise the draft's strengths, but it should provide mostly suggestions for improvement.

  3. An evaluation of a final draft should pay attention to every aspect of the paper, including its topic, thesis, argument, organization, style, mechanics, and insight. It should primarily praise the draft's strengths, though it may offer brief suggestions for improvement, recognizing that it is too late for the writer to respond to detailed suggestions or corrections.

Go To:

Techniques for Peer Evaluations

Revision Questions for Peer Collaborators

Editing Questions for Peer Collaborators

Some "Do's" and "Don't's" of Peer Evaluations

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