Peer Review

Peer review — the ability to give critical formative and summative critique — is critical to success in life, school, and workplace settings. Learn about different types of peer reviews.  Learn how to mentor, to coach, and critique.    
The three talking heads share drafts

Peer review can be informal, like sharing drafts with a few key partners. "Peer review" by SynLLOER is marked with CC0 1.0.

The three talking heads share drafts

What is Peer Review?

Peer Review is

Related Concepts: Collaboration; Epistemology; Interpersonal CompetencyCollaborative Problem Solving; Teamwork


Why Does Peer Review Matter?

Authority is tied to peer review.

Readers, listeners, users . . . are invariably concerned with whether the writer, speaker, knowledge worker . . . is engaged in rhettrickery.

Thanks to their training in information literacy perspectives and practices, literate people question the writer’s ethos: they evaluate the writer’s use of information: do they establish the currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose of information as it is woven into the fabric of the writer’s hypothesis, thesis, research question, and argument.

Peer review plays a substantive role during composing. Learning is social, and we all learn from others’ responses to our texts. Being open to peer review throughout the process can help Writers may seek reviews early during a project to help with invention and rhetorical reasoning.

Peer review also plays a gatekeeping function. When a text has been peer reviewed by reputable authorities and subsequently published by reputable presses, it is thought to be authoritative. Authors may not know which critics read their work.

Peer review is an important part of the composing. When the first cave people started doodling on the cave, they probably had critics looking over their shoulder, suggesting they hold the brush a different way, mix the paint differently, and, perhaps, make the buffalo appear fiercer, and so on.

Contrary to the myth of the isolated author in the garret, successful writers do not work in isolation. Writers collaborate extensively. Writers often crowdsource critiques of their works by colleagues. As an integral component of writing, many people get their best ideas by discussing issues and drafts and by accounting for readers’ responses to their documents.

Advice from peers provides a counterbalance to the deeply subjective nature of feedback from just one person (see Critique). Peer review empowers writers, speakers, knowledge workers . . . to crowdsource drafting, revision and editing processes.

Peer review is a popular practice in academic and workplace contexts:

  • In school settings at the high school and college level in the United States, students are asked to conduct multiple reviews of their classmate’s work. This practice is especially commonplace in composition, creative writing, professional writing, and technical writing courses.
  • When researchers across academic and professional disciplines submit articles and books for publication or grant proposals for funding, those works are peer reviewed.

Peer review is popular among writing faculty who believe

  • students can learn from one another when afforded the opportunity to read and critique one another’s works.
  • students can learn when multiple readers share the same sorts of criticisms and suggestions.

Peer reviews

  • enable writers to receive multiple perspectives on their work.
  • elevates the authority of a text, indicating to readers, listeners, users . . . that it has been vetted and approved by subject matter experts
  • readers empowers rhetors to identify instances when multiple reviewers share critiques.
  • helps students develop their intrapersonal competencies–competencies that are highly valued in the workplace.

Peer Review Tools

Thankfully, new communication technologies make it easier to collaborate than ever before possible.

When During Composing is Peer Reviewed Advised?

Traditionally, writers, speakers, knowledge workers . . . wait to receive peer reviews once their texts are fairly well developed.

However, when possible, you may find it strategic to seek feedback sooner rather than later. After all, peer review can inform rhetorical analysis (especially audience awareness) and rhetorical reasoning.

Types of Peer Review

The type of peer review and the number of people on a review panel are somewhat dependent on the importance of a decision.

Typically in instances where the outcome will have a lot of weight, peer review is conducted by multiple anonymous reviewers. For instance, in the law, Circuit Court judges may work en banc. The twelve judges of the Supreme Court peer review legal arguments.

Directed Peer Review

Students and employees may be directed by teachers, coaches, mentors to follow specific processes when responding or assessing the work of other writers.

Examples

  • Guide to Structured Revision — this is an example of a structured approach to substantive revision. Teachers or managers could ask you to follow a structured approach like this one in order to take the emotion out of revision and editing.
  • Edit for Clarity — this structured exercise focuses on checking texts for brevity.

Anonymous vs Transparent Peer Review

When funding and publication decisions occur in professional, technical, and academic writing, decisions are typically made via anonymous or transparent peer review.

Anonymous Peer Review

Publishers of peer review journals and books may keep the identities of the reviewers anonymous from the writer.

Double-Blind Peer Review

In double-blind situations, neither the writer nor the reader know one another’s identity.

Transparent Peer Review

Publishers of peer-review journals publish the peer reviews and authors’ responses to those reviews alongside the accepted article. This practice typically is not anonymous.

Problems with Peer Review

While peer review can be helpful, some reviewers can be a bit harsh and unfocused. You’re wise to obtain multiple reviews so you don’t get knocked off course by an oddball.

Not all peer reviews are created equal! Maybe it was a bad day for your reviewer. “IT Review!” by AntMan3001 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.