Peer Reviewing

When a classmate asks you to review his or her paper and provide feedback, you should take that task seriously. Many students want honest feedback on their writing and feel cheated if they receive cursory, highly critical, or highly uncritical feedback on their work. Obtaining a peer review is an opportunity to test your writing before you submit it for a grade. Feedback may be verbal or written. Here are some guidelines you and your classmates can use to review one another’s writing:

  • Exchange copies of your writing with your peers. The papers should be double-spaced with margins of 1.5 or even 2 inches to accommodate written comments.

  • Review and comment on the paper by writing brief, specific comments in the margins. Place a check mark by a good point and an x by an error or problem point. Always point out good things about the paper: praise is praiseworthy!

  • Pay attention to larger issues: don’t worry about smaller details, such as punctuation and spelling at this point. Circle them and move on.

  • Number the paragraphs as you read them so you can refer to the numbers when critiquing the organization and the logic of development in your summary comments.

  • Write summary comments at the end, addressing the larger issues, such as clarity, conciseness, accuracy, and readability. Sign and date your copy and return it to the writer.

  • Try to answer the following questions when reviewing your peers’ papers:

    • Does the writer use a clear, direct, and friendly prose style?

    • Does the writer use strong, descriptive, active-voice verbs?

    • Has the audience been clearly identified and addressed?

    • Are the organization and scope of the paper appropriate?

    • Is the prose style readable, clearly written, and concise?

    • Are the graphics, layout, and overall design effective?

    • How would you improve this paper? Be specific and give examples.

For those whose papers are being reviewed, the job of listening to feedback is an active and engaging—but quiet—job. When you hand over your paper to a peer reviewer, don’t spend time apologizing for its content or your presentation of the information. Don’t tell your reviewer what kind of responses you want to hear and explain or defend something in your paper. Above all, your responsibility is to listen carefully to the feedback and take notes for future revisions. Don’t interrupt the reviewer except to ask for clarification. If you have received your feedback in writing, review the comments carefully a time or two, and then ask for clarification if you don’t understand a comment.

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