Debby Ellis Writing Center

Planning & Leading Peer Review

Tailoring Peer Review

Once you have decided on the basics of your peer review worksheet, the next step is to tailor it to the specific assignment you’d like students to revise.

Reinforcing the Learning Goals of the Assignment

As you tailor your peer review sheet to the assignment you want students to work on, it can be useful to refer back to the prompt, the writing guide, and the rubric for the assignment.

You might try:

  • Mirroring the language of the prompt or writing guide in the questions for your peer review. If, for example, you ask students to divide the methods section of their lab report into subheadings, you could ask the peer reviewer to list each subheading and the main points covered under each.
  • Mirroring the organization of the prompt in your peer review. If you ask students to begin their paper with an analysis of a painting, then the first section of your peer review might be titled “Analysis.”
  • Reinforcing the values of your rubric in your peer review. If 25 points of students’ final grade on a business memo is based on their use of proper formatting, then ask the peer reviewer to circle the subject line or put a star next to any bulleted lists.

If you do break down the peer review by section, you might also indicate on the peer review itself how much each section of the paper is worth.

Troubleshooting Writing Difficulties

Between the day you distribute your prompt and rubric and the day you teach peer review, you may discover some common writing challenges your students face. Perhaps many people seem to be having trouble providing sufficient evidence to back their claims, or maybe you’ll just go crazy if you find another dangling participle.

Adding a question or two to peer reviews can be a great way to allow students to work through common writing challenges because those who are struggling with, for example, topic sentences can see a range of examples from other student work.

For these types of challenges, questions that ask students to identify both clear and unclear examples in the works they’re reviewing can force them to consider exactly what makes good writing good. And as an added bonus, fewer of these snags will make it into the final papers you’ll be grading.

Tying Writing Into the Fabric of your Class

One of our favorite things about peer review is that it allows students access to the work that their classmates are doing, work they might otherwise never really get to know about.

By adding a question that asks reviewers to think about the relationship between the paper they’re reading, the overarching goals of the class, or the field as a whole, you can build community and encourage class discussion. Questions like “What does this paper add to our ongoing discussion of Business Ethics?” or “How do the results of this report relate to those you found in your own experience?” can help students see writing as a key part of the class even as they provide a starting point for addressing the contributions made by their own papers.


Next: Teaching about Peer Review