How to Use Peer Review

Initial Publication Date: December 21, 2006

Getting Started

The first step in using peer review is deciding how to integrate relevant writing into the topics of a course. After you have selected or designed a writing assignment on a specific topic, but before you assign it, you'll need to give your students practice in providing useful, constructive feedback. The time you invest in this has a direct payoff in decreasing the amount of time you will spend reviewing student writing.

Introducing peer review to students

Getting students on board

Whichever version of peer review you use, introduce your students to the idea of peer review prior to the first assignment. Spend some time emphasizing the importance of revision in the writing process and remind students that the purpose of peer review is to improve the quality of their writing. You may wish to describe the process of peer review for published journal articles as a reminder that even established scholars in your field benefit from peer review.

Helping students to give and review constructive feedback

Most people need instruction and practice in both giving and making use of constructive feedback. You can help your students.

Teaching students to critique writing

Electronic (calibrated) peer review

If you choose to use electronic (calibrated) peer review, the next step is to set up the Calibrated Peer Review program on a department server. (Note: Beginning in 2009, this will require the purchase of a CPR license. See the Calibrated Peer Review website for details.) In this system, students write short essays on a given topic following guided questions to articulate their ideas and promote critical thinking. Students submit the essays online then read and assign a score to three "calibration" essays. After gaining practice reading for content and reviewing, students read and score three anonymous peer essays. At the end, the students go back and read and score their own essay.

  • Calibrated Peer Review - a more detailed introduction to Calibrated Peer Review, with an example and references.

Low-tech alternative

Alternatively, you can have students evaluate each other's (and their own) writing via paper forms. These forms generally fall into one of two categories: criteria grids and open-ended forms.


How much weight these assignments are given varies enormously. Many instructors begin with extra credit. Typically the writing assignments count 10 - 20% of the course grade, but some have worked up to 50% or higher.

Additional Resources

Overview: Using Student Peer Review (more info)

Gehringer, E.F., 2000. Strategies and Mechanisms for Electronic Peer Review

Peer Editing Guide ( This site may be offline. )