Among its numerous other benefits to writing and research, technology provides a variety of ways to simplify the student peer-review process. Here, we share a few ideas that can help foster that process online, adapted from recommendations offered in Susan Miller-Cochran and Rochelle Rodrigo’s Wadsworth Guide to Research, Second Edition:

  • Word processing programs offer the ability to track changes and insert comments, making them an ideal tool for peer-review projects. The writer can send a copy of the document via e-mail; each student, in turn, can add on their comments. At the end of the review process, the writer receives the feedback on their paper, all in one document. If students use this feature, remind them to adjust the settings within the software, so that their name automatically appears along with each comment (in Microsoft Word, this can be changed within the “Options” dialog box). If that is not possible, encourage them to include their initials within the comments, as well as in the file name of the document they edited. As another option, try cloud-based online collaboration software, such as Google Docs or Zoho, which allow students to see each other’s comments on one central document in real time. Once the feedback is provided, the writer can then download his or her work and re-format it according to your established guidelines.
  • Does your class have an online discussion board? Set up areas dedicated to group discussions, which the peer-review teams can then use to share their papers and provide commentary on each other’s work. If you have a set of questions you want each student to use during the review process, you can include those within an initial post, so that students can easily refer to them. Alternately, students can post their own questions. Either way, students can provide feedback on the writer’s work within nested discussions, and the writer can ask for clarification via follow-up questions. With this method, you can also monitor their progress, or participate in the discussion if need be.
  • If you want students to meet online, they may opt to hold a discussion via instant messaging or a web conferencing tool. The document can be shared on screen, and students can either type their notes into the chat box or discuss their comments through live conversations. (Some programs also allow users to leave recorded voice messages or make notes on the “whiteboard”.) Note that chats are more effective with small groups of people, as it can be difficult to follow along with the discussion if many are trying to talk or send messages at one time. (33)


Reference: Miller-Cochran, Susan and Rodrigo, Rochelle. 2014. The Wadsworth Guide to Research, 2nd ed. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.


What are your “tech tips” for collaborating and providing feedback? Share them below.