How to Benefit From Peer Review Exercises
Many classes include peer review exercises in which you
Writing for a broader audience
Sometimes it is easy to fall into the habit of assuming the only audience for your writing is your instructor. This is understandable since the instructor is the one who grades the assignment. However, you should imagine the audience as larger than that. Peer review exercises remind us of this fact. Often, a peer will see details in your writing that may be unclear or illogical. Perhaps you assume your instructor is already familiar with certain concepts, and therefore you do not need to fully explain them; this is something a peer can call to your attention. Additionally, peer review exercises can change the way you approach and perceive your writing.
Structure, leaps of logic, and gaps in story
When we are familiar with the subject about which we are writing, or when we have been working on a piece for a long time, we sometimes forget to link ideas. Our brains know what the connection is or what we mean to say, but other readers may not. One of the most beneficial aspects of peer review exercises is that a classmate is more likely to notice details that do not make sense or do not flow well. Ask your classmates to help you specifically in these areas. Which parts cause confusion? Were there spots in your writing where the ideas did not flow smoothly or your argument was inconsistent? When you revise your writing after peer review, make sure to elaborate on these areas and strengthen your argument. Also, ensure that you provide proper transitions between ideas.
Grammar and spelling
Another pair of eyes on your work is always beneficial. Your classmate will be looking at what you wrote for the first time, and he or she is therefore more likely to notice small mistakes that your eyes may have missed. In addition, a peer may also notice careless changes in verb tense, missing punctuation, or other grammatical issues. If there is an issue in particular that you struggle with (excessive use of the passive voice, perhaps), it may be a smart idea to tell the person or group reading your paper ahead of time so they are more aware of it.
Helping your peers
Some instructors give extremely specific guidelines regarding the feedback they want you to provide during a peer review exercise. Other instructors are more flexible. Regardless of the instructor's style, it is intelligent to ask your classmate a few questions before beginning the peer review exercise. You could ask, "What are you attempting to do with this paper? What are you struggling with? What kind of feedback would be most beneficial to you?" An effective critique format is one in which you tell the author what has functioned especially well, what the piece made you think about, which parts were vague or unconvincing to you, and why. This yields a comprehensive review for your classmate, which allows him or her to see the impact of the writing. If the student has asked you to focus on specific areas while revising, make sure to discuss these as well.
Peer review exercises are a beneficial way to gain new perspectives on your writing. The suggestions can then be incorporated before submitting a final draft for grading. While these exercises can sometimes cause anxiety or discomfort, they can also provide valuable feedback and help you improve both your writing and your grade.