Skip to main content

Peer Review

All writers—emerging to advanced—can benefit from sharing their writing with careful, supportive readers.

What is peer review?
Example: Directed Peer Review
Peer Review Guide
For Reviewers
For Instructors
Come to the RWC
Downloadable Resources
Diagram for peer review: cartoon image of three people working together on assignments.

What is Peer Review?

In the sciences, "peer review" is the process an experiment undergoes to see if the results of a study are reproducible.

In a writing classroom, peer review, or "peer edit," is a chance to exchange ideas in a social setting.

The Classroom Model

Effective writing requires “reflective thinking” which is, as Kenneth A. Bruffee explains, “something we learn to do, and we learn to do it from and with other people." Given that learning is a social act, then collaboration is essential to increasing independent understanding of any subject. Further, “writing is at once both two steps away from conversation and a return to conversation,” meaning that writing simultaneously influences and is influenced by conversation (see Bruffee, Collaborative Learning and the Conversation of Mankind"). Thus, writing is a type of collaboration, with collaboration being, in fact, a form of communication.

Though there are numerous peer review approaches—which are discussed at length below—peer review is, at its core, a collaborative process of students giving feedback to and receiving feedback from their peers in class. Then, based on the feedback received on their work, students make their desired revisions to their text, leading to more polished, confident submissions. Essentially, peer reviews are collaboration about communication; so, in participating in peer review conversations, students practice engaging with ideas through a critical lens which transfers to their culminating ability to confidently analyze, critique, and consequently revise their own writing pieces and overarching concepts as well.

Additionally, despite its necessity within the writing process, students frequently forego revising their paper drafts before completing their final submission. While there are a myriad of possible reasons for this trend, one likely cause is student uncertainty of what revisions they should make in their paper. Although many professors and instructors provide their students with summative feedback on their writing, this feedback is typically centered on justifying the given-grade for a paper submission and is sometimes difficult to apply to future papers.

Conversely, a successful peer review process benefits both the reviewer and the writer and leads to genuine, substantial revision. Because the peer review process expectedly occurs before the final draft of a paper, feedback is more formative, meaning that the feedback assesses current levels of mastery and provides concrete suggestions for improvement that are both specific to the piece as well as transferable to general writing practice. In essence, integrating formative feedback into the writing process through peer review transforms revision into an exercise in applying new learning.

The Directed Peer Review

One model for peer reviewing in a classroom setting is often instructor-directed. In this setting the instructor gives student reviewers a set of questions and directs students to answer each question to the best of their ability.

Here are some sample questions:

  1. Assignment and Rhetorical Situation
    1. How does the paper, on a global scale, adhere to the assignment?
    2. Where does the paper account for audience?
    3. What is the overall purpose or goal of the paper?
  2. Thesis/Claim/Statement of Intent
    1. How does the paper communicate its main idea?
    2. How does the main idea account for audience and context?
    3. How is the main idea relevant and helpful?
  3. Supporting Evidence
    1. What does the paper use for supporting evidence?
    2. Consider the evidence: is it sufficient, appropriate, accurately interpreted, and relevant to the assignment and thesis?
    3. Where might you need more evidence or commentary?
  4. Global Organization
    1. How is the paper organized?
    2. Where do you see breakdowns in the logical progression of ideas?
    3. Consider format: where does the paper need more development?
  5. Paragraph Organization
    1. How well does each paragraph state its main point?
    2. How well do the paragraphs build upon each other?
  6. Style and Correctness
    1. Does the paper feature an appropriate level of formality (conversational, unapproachable, brazen), for the assignment?
    2. Where do you see grammar errors / patterns of error?
data-content-type=""
overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection= overrideCardHideByline= overrideCardHideDescription= overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText= overrideTextAlignment=
overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection= overrideCardHideByline= overrideCardHideDescription= overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText=
data-content-type=""
overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection= overrideCardHideByline= overrideCardHideDescription= overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText= overrideTextAlignment=
overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection= overrideCardHideByline= overrideCardHideDescription= overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText=
data-content-type=""
overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection= overrideCardHideByline= overrideCardHideDescription= overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText= overrideTextAlignment=
Want to have a peer-review experience?

Whether or not your class conducts peer reviews, you're always welcome to create a similar experience with one of our consultants. Here are some questions to help:

  1. How well does my paper match the assignment?
  2. Who, in your estimation, is my audience? Does my approach and tone seem appropriate for my audience?
  3. What is your gut reaction to my ideas? Where do I need to clarify more?
  4. What is your overall concern?
  5. Where should I clarify more?
  6. How well is my essay organized?
  7. Did you notice any patterns of error?
Here are some additional Resources!

  1. Peer Review Strategies
  2. Detailed methodology, full guide
  3. Methods of the Procedural Guide

Citation: Bruffee, Kenneth A. “Peer Tutoring and the Conversation of Mankind.” Writing Center: Theory and Administration. Ed Gary A. Olson. Urbana IL: National Council of Teachers of English. 1984. 3-15. Print.