- What is "peer review"?
Check out this brief video, No One Writes Alone, produced at MIT.
- How do I prepare for the peer-review workshop?
You should read your group partners’ drafts before the peer-review workshop. For example, if you’re in “Group 1,” download the four papers written by your group members. Be sure to read each draft closely, and make comments on your reactions (see below). Upload a copy of your comments before the workshop, or email your partners directly and cc: me to receive credit. Bring a printed or digital copy of your partners’ essays and your comments to class for reference during the peer-review workshop discussions.
Should I focus on the details or global issues when reviewing someone’s draft?
Rather than edit sentences (i.e. focusing on grammar, punctuation, and spelling), share your reactions and concerns about the larger aspects of the draft, such as whether each article fulfills its purpose. However, if you notice a particular pattern of grammatical errors, be sure to share that trend. The following questions should serve as a guide to focus your feedback:
- Did the author translate the science clearly and in an engaging way? If so, how? If not, in what ways could the science be more clearly explained and enticing for the reader?
- Was the organization of the article effective?
- What about the title?
- The beginning?
- The ending?
- How does the author connect their topic to the world in which we live?
- Anything you were confused by?
- Was the metaphor choice(s) effective and appropriate?
- What was the most effective aspect of the author’s writing?
- Anything else you really enjoyed and admired?
Although you're focusing on global issues, it's important to identify and highlight specific moments in your partner's paper that illustrate each of your critical points. Referencing single moments in the text will allow you and the author to engage in a concrete discussion of ways to improve the overall draft.
What do I do during the peer-review workshop?
4.1 Tips for Readers
Taking clear notes while you read the draft is critical, since it can be difficult to remember responses to a piece of writing when discussing the work days or even hours later. Likewise, these notes will benefit the author tremendously. Write directly on the draft and/or have a separate document with your overall thoughts, and give these materials to the author. Additional tips include:
- Have the article and your notes visible during the workshop
- Provide evidence for all comments by referring to specific moments in the text
- Be honest and specific
- Do not over-praise (aim for at most 30% praise and at least 70% constructive criticism)
4.2 Tips for Authors
It is important for the author to take notes while receiving feedback during the workshop, which will help you categorize and prioritize your readers’ responses when you revise the paper. The author should also be an active participant:
- If you are unclear about a reviewer’s comment, ask for clarification
- Ask specific questions about your work to generate specific answers from your readers
- Rather than ask questions that require a simple yes/no answer (A), ask readers to paraphrase your ideas to gauge their comprehension (B).
- "Do you understand what I'm saying in the 3rd paragraph?"
- "What do you think I'm saying in the 3rd paragraph?"
The open-ending approach (B) will help you become more aware of how your audience understands and interprets your text. Learning how others’ respond to your writing is the core purpose of the peer-review workshop.
- This all sounds helpful, but is it enjoyable?
The peer-review process brings your classmates together with the sole goal of helping one another. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Moreover, sharing your work with others brings the writing you’ve produced to life in new ways. The work will become more real for you and your readers. Understandably, the workshop may be intimidating at times, especially when you give/receive direct criticism, but the process can also be a lot of fun. Warning: some members of your peer-review group may smile and even laugh at times. Remember, we’re all in this together!