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Peer Editing

Peer editing is an excellent strategy. It helps the writer receive input and guidance, and it also helps the peer editor understand how to improve his or her own writing.

The goal of peer review is fourfold:

  1. to help writers see their writing from a reader’s perspective
  2. to share what is working well and any suggestions to improve the piece
  3. to assist writers in revising with a real reader or audience in mind, creating a dynamic and friendly partnership
  4. to help writers formulate an agenda for revision, brainstorming a helpful list of actions to develop a stronger piece of writing

Step 1. Read the whole essay once without making any marks on the page.

Try to figure out the writer’s main point (thesis, hypothesis, central idea) and which areas to focus on.

Some examples: 

  • Strengthening the main point 
    Is the thesis relevant? debatable? challenging?
  • Helping to make the organization clearer 
    Do the ideas follow in a clear sequence?
  • Looking to see if every claim has good evidence to support it
    Is there enough evidence?
  • Reviewing how the conclusion addresses what the writer said was at stake in the introduction

Step 2. Read the whole essay again.

As you read paragraph by paragraph, stop and reflect on what you could say that would help the writer revise. The aim is to make your feedback as clear, specific, and easy-to-understand as possible.

Try to help the writer understand what might be changed and improved or why something works so well.

Be careful to offer guidelines and suggestions, but not to dictate. Remember it is not your essay and does not have to be written the way you would write it.

Do not cross out the writer’s words or phrases. When you have specific suggestions, write them clearly in the margins.

Tell the writer what you like and where the writer is doing a good job: making a good point, offering sound evidence, expressing him/herself particularly well, connecting ideas effectively, and so forth. Be sure to explain briefly how this is so. Avoid using vague terms unless paired with concrete explanations.

Ask helpful questions. In the margins, you can ask questions that show where you think more information might be needed.

Try to encourage development of the line of thinking you see in the piece. Ask questions and share ideas and implications that the writer might not have considered.

3. Review for surface-level errors: proofreading.

The most persuasive pieces of writing are not only well organized and well argued, but also carefully proofread.

Eliminating surface-level errors shows the respect you have for your own ideas and for the time and energy you are asking of your readers.

In proofreading, the goal is to check for misspelled or incorrectly used words, oddly worded phrases, problems with punctuation or mechanics,missing or improperly formatted citations, or typos.

Here’s one easy and effective strategy: read the essay backwards. Read the last sentence, then the next to last, and so forth, until you arrive at the first sentence. This can help you catch errors that are harder to notice when the draft is read in its regular sequence. 

4. Reflect and enjoy the process.

Take note of what you learned about yourself as a writer, what you learned about the topic in the piece, and how much you got to learn about your peer’s viewpoint.