How to give a good peer review
Benefits of giving feedback
Being able to give helpful and critical feedback will help your colleagues to improve their drafts considerably. In return, your colleagues will reciprocate by also giving you useful and critical feedback. Furthermore, research shows that the process of giving feedback will benefit your own writing process. This is because it will improve your ability to analyse your own drafts.
Research suggests that effective feedback comments often:
1. Answer the author’s request for help in his/her cover letter (i.e. read the author’s cover letter carefully).
2. Give concrete and specific advice (e.g. give suggestions and/or solutions for improvement).
3. Focus on improving higher-order concerns (e.g. ideas and structure) rather than lower-order concerns (e.g. spelling and grammar)
4. Identify passages within the draft that you find difficult to read and/or understand. In these cases, it will benefit the author greatly if you give a short summary of how you understand the meaning of the ‘potentially confusing’ passage.
5. Give an appropriate amount of genuine positive feedback (not too much and not too little) on aspects of the text the author has written well.
6. Justify or give reasons for your feedback comments (including praise; e.g. “Your introduction is great because of (a), (b) and (c)) where appropriate.
7. Be polite and respectful to the author.
8. Give feedback on specific content only if you are competent to do so (note: this is the supervisor’s job!).
9. Comment on ‘content’ that you feel may be ‘inappropriate’ even if you are not an expert. In these cases, use appropriate words and/or expressions to signal your genuine uncertainty (e.g. “It may be that, “It seems to me that …”, “From a reader’s perspective, perhaps …”).
Take the author’s perspective
Whilst writing your feedback comments, you may find it useful to consider the prompts below:
(i) Does the feedback you are giving (have given) include most of the points on the list above?
(ii) If you were the author of the text, would you find this feedback useful and critical?
After the round of feedback
You may find it helpful to compare the feedback comments you wrote with the feedback comments you received by using the prompts below:
(i) Which feedback comments did you find useful? Not so useful?
(ii) Which of the points above were often contained in your ‘useful’ feedback comments?
(iii) Do you think the authors found your feedback comments useful? Not so useful?