Nerdify Reviews 7 Tips for Peer Review Assignments

Are you confused by the peer review assignment your professor has given? Are you worried about giving feedback to your classmates? Do you fear reading your peers’ feedback on your own writing? If so, look no further. The Nerdify reviews team, with help from a college professor guest writer, is here to provide advice and tips for how to approach the peer review assignment.

Tips for Giving Feedback in Peer Review Assignments

First, it’s helpful to have some background on this assignment. If you have in-person classes, your professor might schedule a peer-review workshop session. This could be a whole class period or just a portion of it. In this instance, you will be asked to bring a certain number of copies of your paper to class (three is usually the magic number) and trade papers with your peers. If you bring three copies of your paper to class, that means you’ll also be reading three classmate’s papers. This can also be done digitally, in which case you might be asked to review more peer papers.

1. Start With Big-picture Concerns

Give the essay a quick read from start to finish. Does the essay make sense? Are there any major logical flaws you notice? Is the argument easy to understand?

2. Give Specific Examples Of Problems You Identify

It’s not helpful to give a classmate a blanket comment about their paper, i.e. “Your paper doesn’t use enough evidence.” Instead, underline or highlight statements the writer made that you believe need to be backed up with evidence.

3. Point Out Patterns Of Mechanical And/or Grammatical Mistakes

Remember you are a peer reviewer, not an editor. Don’t correct each instance of incorrect verb tense, subject-verb agreement, comma misuse, or bad punctuation. This will take up too much time and might be overwhelming to the paper’s writer. If possible, identify patterns of error, such as frequent run-on sentences. Point out one or two instances of the mistake in the paper and remind the writer they can seek help through the college writing center or online to learn how to remedy these common grammatical or mechanical writing mistakes.

4. Ask Questions

“What do you mean by this?” or “Can you clarify what you mean here?” are great neutral questions to have in your peer-review toolbox. If a sentence or idea is unclear, writing one of these questions in the paper’s margin is a gentle way to probe the writer to provide more information.

5. Give Concrete Suggestions For How To Revise The Essay

At this point in the peer review process, it’s a good idea to give the paper a second read. Now that you’re fairly familiar with the essay, what would it take to improve it? Remember that like you, your peers will be required to revise their paper after the peer review workshop. Nobody wants to feel stuck, so give your peers some advice for how to move forward. Would the paper be improved by adding an additional source? Providing a counter-argument? Lengthening the conclusion? Shortening the introduction? Again, be as specific as you can so your peers can know exactly how to start improving their essay.

Tips for Receiving Feedback in Peer Review Assignments

6. Don’t Take Things Personally

Writing can often feel like a personal act because each individual puts their own personality and outlook into what they write. However, remember that your peers are not critiquing you. Peer review is an assignment, and your classmates are fulfilling what the professor asked them to do. Consider feeling grateful; your peers are offering constructive criticism about how to make your writing more successful and ultimately get a better grade!

7. Take Feedback With A Grain Of Salt

Your peers are trying to help you in the process of peer-review, but since they are still in the process of learning and are not experts, it’s possible they could give bad advice. Use your own judgment when reviewing your classmates’ comments, especially if the advice of two classmates contradicts each other. This is a time for you to lean on your own knowledge and make informed judgment calls to distinguish between good and bad advice.

Though at first it may seem nerve-wracking, look at the peer review assignment as a learning opportunity. Peer review can bolster your critical analysis skills, which can improve your performance in other courses. Commenting on a classmates’ paper can also help you think more critically about your own writing. Additionally, it can be helpful to learn from your classmates and see how they approached a topic or assignment. Knowing there is more than one way to meet the goals of an assignment can help you be more creative and think outside the box for future assignments. Finally, critical analysis and knowing how to approach a task in multiple ways are skills you can carry with you into your post-college career.

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