What is Peer Review?
Peer Review is
- the practice of giving and getting critiques (including formative and summative feedback) from others in order to improve something–such as a text, application, service.
- a formal method used by publishers, businesses, and discourse communities to ensure that a text (e.g., a research study or book) meets the standards and expectations of other subject matter experts
- For instance, publishers may ask reviewers to evaluate whether a text is responsive to current scholarly conversations on a topic, if the author has used the correct research methods, if knowledge claims are substantiated via citation or original research, and if the correct style of writing was employed given the rhetorical situation
- a pedagogical approach
- Students in U.S. classrooms, from high school to college, engage in reviews of peers’ texts. Advice from peers provides a counterbalance to the deeply subjective nature of feedback from just one person (see Critique). Peer review empowers writers, speakers, and knowledge workers to crowdsource drafting, revision and editing processes.
- a gatekeeping tool.
Synonyms & Related Terms
Most simply, peer reviewed means multiple subject matter experts have reviewed the text and given feedback.
Why Does Peer Review Matter?
- Peer review serves as a gatekeeper for knowledge claims.
- Having experts vet the review of research, research methods, results, recommendations, and conclusions is an important step in the process of vetting new knowledge claims
- 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 composing process can help writers save time and write more effectively. Writers may seek reviews early during a project to help with invention and rhetorical reasoning. Writers use peer review to fine-tuning their sense of audience and move from writer-based prose to reader-based prose.
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 develop their sense of readers’ expectations by obtaining critiques from multiple audiences
- when multiple readers share the same sorts of criticisms and suggestions.
- enables 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
- helps people develop their intrapersonal competencies–competencies that are highly valued in the workplace.
Types of Peer Reviews
The type of peer review and the number of people on a review panel are somewhat dependent on the importance of a decision.
In instances where the outcome will have a lot of weight, peer review tends to be conducted by multiple anonymous reviewers. For instance, when departments of admission at colleges and universities are screening applications, they typically ask multiple people to review, rank, and then vote on applications. When undergraduates submit an honors thesis, they’ll usually have three reviews. At the graduate level, across academic disciplines, there are multiple reviewers for major milestones (e.g. thesis proposal or defense).
Anonymous Peer Review
Publishers of peer review journals and books may keep the identities of the reviewers and writers anonymous. In double-blind situations, neither the writer nor the reader knows one another’s identity.
Theoretically, anonymous peer review is the gold standard because it helps eliminate bias. When funding and publication decisions occur in grant writing and academic writing, they often follow an anonymous peer review process. In practice, however, researchers are familiar with the works of other researchers so on occasion they can guess who the author(s) of the manuscript is/are.
How to Conduct an Anonymous Peer Review
To facilitate anonymous peer reviews, authors redact all personal information from their submitted work. To maintain the integrity of the process, authors and reviewers do not share their names, colleges, or universities. Subsequently, reviewers are careful not to use any language in their critiques that would enable the writer(s) to identify them.
Directed Peer Review
Directed Peer Review refers to instances when reviewers are directed to follow specific processes when responding to or assessing the work of other writers.
Examples of Directed Peer Reviews
- 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.
Open Peer Review or Transparent Peer Review
What is a Peer Reviewed Article? Book? Website?
Are Peer Reviewed Works More Authoritative Than Non Peer Reviewed Works?
Works that have been peer reviewed are generally more authoritative than works that are self published. In academic and scientific journals, journal editors give reviewers guidelines to follow when critiquing submissions. For instance, reviewers may be asked to give feedback
- on whether the document is informed by existing scholarship, especially past articles published in the journal
- on the research methodology
- on the style of writing.
It’s not uncommon for authors to need to revise articles multiple times before they pass peer review and the article is published.
That said, as addressed above, there are different types of feedback, and not all feedback is created equal. You cannot necessarily assume that a peer-reviewed text is authoritative. There are instances, for example, when reviewers may have had a conflict of interest or some sort of bias that interfered with their interpretation and critique.
it’s a good thing to keep in mind that many peer reviewed articles have since been debunked.
Problems with Peer Review
While peer review can be incredibly important to writers, speakers, knowledge workers, 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.
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.