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Sound Writing

Subsection 4.3.2 Peer Review

Few are more familiar with peer review than Writing Tutors. It’s a lot of what we do! And it’s likely that in some of your classes, your professor will also hold a peer review session at some point. That said, there are some keys to mastering the art of peer review.
List 4.3.2. Strategies for Engaging in Peer Review
  • Be friendly.
    There’s nothing more off-putting to a writer than a reviewer who either implicitly or explicitly shames that peer’s writing. Start with positives and read for potential. Remember: as a peer reviewer, you should be offering polite and constructive criticism, not trying to prove that you’re a better writer than your peer.
  • Be affirmative.
    Let your peer know that the work they are doing is never wasted. Affirm the good things that a paper does (there are always good things). The writer needs to know what to keep in the paper or what to continue doing.
  • Be critical.
    Even though you should be friendly, you aren’t doing your peer any favors when you notice something but don’t point it out. Contrary to common belief, it is possible to be both friendly and critical.
  • Be efficient.
    Don’t mark every typo or instance of non standard language usage. Look for patterns and identify one or two instances of these patterns. Focus on Higher Order Concerns relating to argument, organization, and the ideas expressed in the paper. The Revision Checklist provides a way to hone in on some of the more systemic aspects of a paper. Save your ink for more important things, like writing checks to the university alumni fund.
  • Be open.
    Having your writing read—whether by a peer, or a professor, or an employer—will always entail some degree of vulnerability. Trust that your reviewer is not out to hurt you or your feelings. Remind yourself that the best revision comes about as a result of communication between parties mutually interested and invested in the success of the paper. Friends often find things that we cannot, especially those issues we have learned to overlook after reading our paper over and over again.
  • Be present.
    Get coffee with your peer reviewer. Comments are often easier to stomach in person and when you can hear your peer’s voice. And if you’re reviewing remotely and won’t be able to have a discussion, be especially intentional about the language and tone that you adopt. Not everyone knows that that comment you made regarding the writer’s perfectly fine use of alternating pronouns was sarcastic.