Assessing your friend: all you need to know about writing a peer review

If you’re a student, you probably know how difficult it is to read the feedback from your professor sometimes. Nonetheless, it’s a vital component of your academic improvement and the development of your critical thinking skills. In fact, the professor points out the things you need to pay closer attention to so that you do better the next time. However, giving constructive and useful feedback is also quite a challenge. For you to understand it, the teacher can challenge the class to review one another’s essays, and this type of assessment is called peer review. 

Why you get assigned peer reviews

An assignment to review your peer’s or friend’s work is not just there to give your teacher some free time. First of all, it’s meant to help you improve your own writing skills. It often happens that the person who completes an essay or paper may not notice any flaws in it, so the teacher, or a reviewer, is there to help them grow. Assessing someone else’s work is a bit easier than assessing your own, and you can try walking in your teacher’s shoes for a change. Therefore, you need to critique your peer’s writing so that you can eventually reflect on your own. The point is that you learn to notice what works in academic writing and what doesn’t. The teacher can either ask you to exchange your work with the people of your choice or assign the reviewers randomly. In any case, you need to maintain objectivity. 

What to pay attention to 

If you want to write a helpful and insightful review for your peer, you need to pay attention to all aspects of the essay. If that’s still too abstract for you, here are some questions you can approach your classmate’s work with:

  • Is the writing style appropriate for the essay?
  • Do they introduce the topic effectively?
  • Is the thesis statement strong?
  • Do the body paragraphs start with topic sentences?
  • Is the reasoning persuasive enough?
  • Does the author use sources to support their arguments?
  • Are the sources they use trustworthy?
  • Does the author conclude the argument effectively?
  • Did the essay persuade you?
  • What worked in this essay and what did not?

With these questions in mind, it will be easier for you to provide your peers with constructive feedback and help them improve their writing skills, and reflect on how you write essays yourself. 

How to give feedback

The main rule of giving effective feedback is objectivity. Whether you like or dislike the work, just stating as much is not enough. Since it is also an assignment from your teacher, you will need to shape your thoughts and impression into a logical and cohesive piece of writing. When you work on your peer review, there are several things for you to mention, including the strengths and weaknesses of the essay. However, in this type of assignment, you also have to maintain a neutral tone and give reasons for every comment on your classmate’s writing. After all, you probably don’t want them to feel bad. Here are some tips from the writing experts of RapidEssay on how to deliver your critique. 

Positive feedback

This is the easy part. The best way to give feedback is by starting and ending it with the positive aspects, putting the criticism in between. In the positive part, point out what you find effective, interesting, or creative in the essay. Comment on the way the author handles the topic or on their reasoning. Simply put, say what you like about the work and explain how it resonates with you. 

Negative feedback

Obviously, this one is the hard part. While thinking about what to say here, look at the questions above and analyze whether the answers are in the negative. Avoid using words such as bad or poor and focus on the reasons why the writer’s choices didn’t work. Besides, you can add how you would approach the weak spots in the essay and why. 

Recommendations

In fact, recommendations are parts of negative feedback. Or at least giving recommendations serves as a way of delivering negative feedback. If you find there is something wrong with the writing, suggest a way to fix it. In addition, recommendations must be placed in such a way that they conclude your peer review. Based on recurring or significant mistakes in the essay, give the author recommendations on how to avoid them in the future. 

 

Being a critic for your peers may be difficult. You need to demonstrate your writing skills, critical thinking, and objectivity. Moreover, you need to balance that objectivity with positive feedback so as not to kill the motivation of the person whose work you review. For that reason, follow these simple tips and don’t take the reviews of your own work personally.

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