All writers need feedback. At any stage of the writing process, whether at the very beginning, after a first draft, or after making extensive revisions, having other readers provide their responses to your writing can help you make decisions about how to proceed with your college paper, creative writing, a scholarship application, a cover letter for a job, or any other kind of writing. This process of sharing your writing with others in order to receive helpful feedback is called peer review.
All you need for peer review is a reader or readers (in a class it’s not uncommon to work in a peer review group of 3 or 4 students). Peer review sessions are often planned by an instructor with specific instructions for the participants to follow. Below are some ideas for peer review whether you are an instructor looking for some ideas to help your students share their work in a collaborative peer review session, or whether you are a student (or anyone, actually) who is interested in sharing your writing in order to gather valuable insights from readers.
At the EWU Writers’ Center, we like to think of writing not so much as a product but as a process. We understand that the writing you present in a collaborative session with us is not finished (though sometimes it is pretty close, with just a few tweaks required before turning in a paper—even so, if you think about it, any writing can be revised further to make it better!), and that there will be further revision after the session. We strive, therefore, to treat the writer’s work as a work in progress. This is an important mindset to have when doing peer review with others, whether in class or informally with friends.
First, decide how to conduct your peer review. In a group, it is common to ask the writer to remain quiet while the group participants discuss the writing. The writer listens and takes notes, and waits to ask the group questions or to ask for further suggestions. While the group should focus on providing constructive criticism with the intention of identifying what the writer is doing well and offer some suggestions for revision, the writer should not become defensive but should instead ask questions and make note of reactions, and act on what they find particularly valuable or insightful. It’s important to note, therefore, that the writing belongs to the writer, and any decisions of what to do in a revision are up to the writer.
In a less formal setting, a writer and reader (or a group of readers) may discuss the writing together and talk about ideas for revision. And, if the peer review takes place in a different type of setting—perhaps one friend emails a draft to another friend for feedback—the goal should remain on helping the writer identify what’s working well as well as other areas which may not yet seem as clear or polished.
Listed below are some ideas for a peer review partner or group to consider when providing feedback:
Think FIRST about:
Think NEXT about:
Some links from other university writing centers: