When it comes to peer review work in the classroom, everyone stands to benefit. The owner of the paper receives another perspective and a much-needed “second pair of eyes” for catching grammatical errors. The student reviewers have the opportunity to fine-tune their editing and comprehensive reading skills. If these revisions are handed in, even the instructor may enjoy observing each student’s unique thought process via the edits and comments.

Most students will appreciate the provision of guidelines or sample questions to kick off their peer review process. Whether online or in person, this will help to ensure their revisions are insightful as well as courteous.

Effective Peer Review Questions

Ask your students to not simply review for grammar, but to ensure that the writer has made a well-articulated and developed point. Students should respectfully point out any gaps in logic or provide information and points of view that the writer may have overlooked. In Keys for Writers with Assignment Guides, Seventh Edition, Ann Raimes and Susan K Miller-Cochran offer the following question prompts to share with your students during their peer-review sessions:

  1. Who is the audience and what is the purpose for this piece of writing? Consider offering a suggestion if either the audience or purpose is not clearly established.
  2. What do you see as the writer’s main point in this draft?
  3. Which part of the draft interests you the most? Why?
  4. Where do you feel you would like more detail or explanation? Where do you need less?
  5. Do you find any parts unclear, confusing, or undeveloped? Mark each such spot and write a question in the margin to the writer.
  6. Which medium did the author choose for presenting his or her work? Is the medium appropriate, or would you suggest an alternative? (41)


Top 4 Peer Review Tips

Raimes and Miller-Cochran go on to provide the following tips to keep in mind when starting a new review:

  1. Don’t think of yourself as an English teacher armed with a red pen. Instead, ask the writer who the intended audience is, and try to read the piece from that perspective.
  2. Start by providing positive reactions to ideas and clarity. Look for parts that make you think, “I agree,” “I like this,” or “This is well done.”
  3. As you read, put a light pencil mark or highlight one or two passages that make you pause and send you back to reread. If you can, write a comment next to those passages that indicates what you would like to have clarified (“I would like to know more about…” or “I wasn’t sure what you meant by…”).
  4. Try to avoid comments that sound like accusations (“You were too vague in paragraph 3”). Instead, ask questions of the writer (“Could you give a specific example in paragraph 3?”). Questions invite a response, and they’ll help the writer revise. (40)

These four tips serve to re-enforce the importance of peer review, that it is not a step to be overlooked. You can share these guidelines with your students as-is, or use them to craft your own unique questions as your students begin their peer review sessions.

Reference: Miller-Cochran, Susan K. and Anne Raimes. 2016. Keys for Writers with Assignment Guides, 7th ed. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

© 2016 Cengage Learning.

What other topics do you recommend when getting students started with peer review? What tricks do you use when reviewing your own peers’ work? Share your ideas with our community below!