Assignment #5: Peer Review

As mentioned in Chapter 3, the highest common standard in academic writing are peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes assembled by respected academic publishers, in which different expert scholars critique each submission before it is published. This is a useful model for the writing classroom, and by imitating it, you will be more prepared for the realities of academic publishing awaiting you as your career expands.

Now that you have created a rough draft for your paper, the next natural step is to have peers review it and give comments for it to be improved. “Peers” in this case refers to your classmates, who have experience with writing under similar circumstances, and perhaps some expertise in your field. Ideally, your instructor will have arranged peer review groups based on who is mostly likely to be able to give meaningful suggestions for your paper. Even if a reviewer is not an expert in your field or about your topic, they still represent part of your potential audience, and so if they are not able to understand something, that can lead to valuable revisions to your paper.

Perhaps it is confusing why peer review is the assignment related to this chapter on classroom communication. However, the process of getting feedback from a peer about your paper in a respectful and meaningful way is a delicate one, in which there is a complex subject matter with a high-risk interaction, that is, one can risk offending others. It is an excellent opportunity to practice academic professionalism. An important scholarly skill is providing unbiased critiques of others’ work, and receiving them gracefully so that everyone’s work might be improved.

Peer review can be conducted in class or among cohorts outside of classrooms. Based upon the specific requirements of the writing tasks, you want to provide constructive and helpful comments to your peers. Comments can be both negative and positive in terms of content, structure, and language use. The comments can be provided throughout the paper, at the end of the paper as a summary, or both. A comprehensive feedback, at most times, is appreciated. In any case, peer review is not merely leaving comments on papers about grammar: it is a dialogue about how a paper can be improved, one which can take place in person in a classroom with printed copies, or in a digital space with document files. How your instructor wants to review the peer review process depends on the mode that the process takes, whether it is marking physical papers, making digital comments, etc. How your instructor wants to review the peer review process depends on the mode that the process takes, whether it is marking physical papers, making digital comments, etc. Below are the general rules in conducting peer review.

Rules for reviewers:

Rule 1: Read the paper more than once and each time focus on different aspects of the paper. Always focus on the content of the paper first rather than focusing on grammar.

Rule 2: Provide comments based upon the requirements of the writing task and the specific type of writing. Sometimes you can ask the person what feedback they are looking for.

Rule 3: Use friendly and encouraging words. Just imagine how you will feel when you read the comments. It does not mean that we are not allowed to give negative feedback. We can give negative feedback but our tone can be more friendly and encouraging–reviewers should give comments not because they think that the writing is bad, but because they want it to be better.

Rule 4: Name two areas that the writer has already done well and name at least two areas in which this writer could further improve. Also, please explain in 3-4 sentences.

Rule 5: Remember, you will not help your classmate if you just tell them that their writing is “fine” or “great.” Be as specific and as honest as you can.

Rules for the one receiving comments

Rule 1: Review the comments on time. Sometimes you might want to ask clarification questions. Bear in mind that if it takes a long time for correspondence with the reviewer they might not remember what they have commented.

Rule 2: If possible, have an interaction with the reviewer, if it is not a blind review. Oral communication is very helpful to clarify confusion and confirm your understanding of the comments.

Rule 3: Do not take the comments personally. Reviewers may not know how to give comments in a tactical way and the phrasing of the comments might hurt your feelings.

Rule 4: You do not always accept the reviewer’s comments. Not all comments are helpful. You need to be selective in taking their advice.

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