What is Peer Review

Initial Publication Date: December 21, 2006

Peer Review involves four inseparable stages:

  1. writing
  2. training on how to evaluate texts on the topic
  3. peer review, and
  4. self-review.

The basic peer review format is to have students review the written work of other students and make suggestions for improvement. Peer review may be conducted in class and/or outside of class, and may be completed with pen-and-paper or online, via calibrated peer review.

Peer review is an important part of the scientific process, yet many students do not receive an opportunity to participate in this valuable exercise. Typical reasons instructors steer away from this type of assignment include the amount of in-class time it takes to complete and students not reporting meaningful comments for fear of complete anonymity. Organizing mock reviews and/or utilizing technological tools can facilitate and streamline the peer-review process in introductory-level courses. For implementation tips, including sample review forms and grading rubrics, see How to use Peer Review.

Examples of where to use peer review (from Gehringer, 2000)

Peer review can be applied to a variety of assignments in introductory-level courses and beyond. Some examples include:
  • to review research papers
  • to research lecture material
  • to annotate lecture notes
  • to make up original problems
  • to review other students' designs
  • to do weekly reviews in independent-study courses

For further information

Colorado State University's Writing Center has put together the website, Overview: Using Student Peer Review (more info) . It provides information on planning for peer review, helping students make effective comments, helping students handle divergent advice, sample worksheet and additional information. This is a very useful site for an instructor hoping to implement the use of peer review in any subject.

Gehringer, E.F., 2000. Strategies and Mechanisms for Electronic Peer Review presents a system of electronic peer review developed at North Carolina State University. The implementation of the Peer Grader system is detailed as well as student reaction to the system. The article explores the ways that electronic peer review facilitates collaborative learning.

Melanie Dawson of the University of Richmond's Writing Center has prepared a Peer Editing Guide (more info) . This guide offers help for students in knowing what to look for when reviewing a peer's paper. Specific questions regarding the thesis, content and clarity (among other aspects) are given to help the reviewer grasp the important parts of a paper.