How To Engage In Peer Revision
Hello again! Thank you for joining me (Annie) for another blog post! We’re only a few weeks away from the end of the semester. With the end approaching so quickly, you’re probably noticing that the deadlines for your final papers are closer than ever. Professors sometimes use class periods during the final weeks to ask students to engage in peer revision on these papers. Likewise, students often reach out to their peers outside of class to request that their peers look over their final papers. For many, the request for peer revision can be agonizing. The reviewer neither wants to be too critical of their peer’s essay by offering too much feedback, nor be of no use to their peer by offering minimal feedback. Likewise, the writer doesn’t want their writing to be torn apart or walk away without any revision suggestions. So, the reviewers and writers often struggle to complete the peer review and walk away feeling satisfied.
The Writing Center is full of peer tutors, so we understand the process of peer revision well. We know how challenging this process can be, whether the process occurs in the classroom or between friends, and we have many strategies and tips on how to successfully complete the peer revision process. As a Writing Center tutor myself, I’ve compiled a few of these tips on how to make the most of the revision process both when you’re the reviewer and when you’re the writer!
When you’re the reviewer…
1. Focus on revising, not proofreading
Although revision and proofreading are both important parts of creating a well-crafted essay, these two strategies are different. Proofreading requires the reviewer to focus on the surface errors of a document, such as spelling, grammar, and punctuation. In comparison, revision requires the reviewer to focus on the core of the document, such as the content, tone, flow, structure, etc. Since revision changes the core of the writing, this process should be done before the surface errors are revised during proofreading. So, your primary focus during this revision process should be on the content of the paper, including the thesis, organization, flow, cohesion, etc. Your peer or you can fix the surface errors and polish the document later.
Focus on revising the core of the essay!
2. Let the writer be the guide
While you may be tempted to dive right into the revision process, you should take some time to listen to what the writer wants you to help them with. Ask the writer what they would like you to focus on while you revise their paper. Some writers may not have a specific area they want help with, but other writers may have areas they would like a second opinion on. If the writer provides you with specific areas, you should closely review those areas and offer concrete feedback on them. Even if the writer doesn’t provide you with specific areas, you can ask the writer to show you the rubric or explain the requirements of the assignment. You can then keep these requirements in mind when reviewing the essay to ensure the writing accomplishes the correct goals.
3. Provide constructive feedback
Providing feedback to the writer can be intimidating because you don’t want the writer to feel like their writing isn’t good. Nevertheless, feedback is an essential part of the revision process because the writer needs to know how to improve their writing. Since feedback is so important, you should provide specific and constructive feedback. To do this, you should try to explain your thought process for each suggestion. A reviewer, for instance, could say, “The opening story in the introduction could be revised because I struggled to understand how the story related to the topic of the paper.” By explaining your thought process, the writer will understand how revising certain areas will help the reader understand their writing. You should also provide suggestions to the writer on how to improve their writing. The same reviewer could say, “You could consider adding a different story to the introduction or explaining the significance of the story in the introduction.” These suggestions will give the writer guidance on how to implement the revision suggestions.
Provide constructive feedback!
When you’re the writer…
1. Provide the reviewer with revision materials
In order for the reviewer to help you revise your paper, you should provide them with the tools to fully understand your assignment. You should bring the rubric and any other materials relevant to the assignment. You could also consider bringing a list of the areas of your assignment that you would like the reviewer to focus on, such as the transition statements or the strength of the main argument. When the peer revision process begins, you should provide the reviewer with these materials and take a few minutes to explain the assignment and the areas you would like the reviewer to help you with. These revision materials will enable the reviewer to structure their feedback around the assignment’s most important parts and the areas you would like to be improved.
2. Be open to feedback
Sharing your writing with others can already be scary, so receiving feedback on this writing can often leave you feeling vulnerable. However, you should keep in mind that peer reviewers are attempting to help you grow as writers. Their feedback isn’t meant to be criticism, but rather a means to improve your writing and your abilities. When you receive this feedback, don’t view the comments as an attack on yourself or your writing. Rather, keep an open mind, consider how their suggestions would affect your writing, and modify your writing to adhere to the feedback you find useful.
Be open to feedback!
3. Engage in a conversation
After the peer reviewer finishes reviewing your writing, you should take a few minutes to engage in a conversation about their suggestions. Ask them to talk through their comments out loud, focusing specifically on the areas they believe you could most improve your writing by revising. This conversation will enable you to understand their revision comments better because you can hear them talk through these comments and ask questions about the comments.
We hope that you will be able to use these tips the next time you find yourself reviewing a peer’s paper or having your writing reviewed by a peer. Of course, you don’t want to wait until your professor or a friend requests that you engage in peer revision. You can always stop by the Writing Center to have one of our peer tutors look over your writing. During these sessions, you could pay attention to the different ways the tutor completes the revision process to learn more about helpful peer revision strategies or you can ask the tutor for more tips on peer revision strategies!