This week, you will begin working with peer reviewing. You will submit a copy of your Review rough draft, and you will be reviewing your classmates’ rough drafts. You may or may not have done this in previous classes. You also might have done a form of peer review in a work-related environment. The purpose of peer review in this class is to encourage you to engage with and write about different essays that are not complete so you gain greater understanding of the written material and for the writer to receive helpful feedback and guidance.
Writing a Review
When you are in the market to make a big purchase, how do you decide what model or version to buy? Do you talk to friends who have made a similar purchase? Do you listen to family members who have experience with the products? Do you turn to magazines or the Internet to see the consensus of hundreds or even thousands of people?
If you turn to the experience of other people to help you make up your mind, you are relying on reviews. Reviews offer us a way to “try out” a product or service before we spend our money on it. Reviews are based on consumers’ expectations. For example, at the very least, most of us expect to get “value for money” out of a major purchase; however, “value” is defined by the qualities of a product. Gathering reviews on a product and comparing other people’s experiences can help you to decide how well a product fits your expectations of “value for money.”
To write a review of your own, pick a product or service that has left an impression on you: think about that digital camera that has been recording your memories without fail for years or the manicurist who stood up and walked out to answer her cell phone, leaving you with one hand finished and the other undone. What did you expect from that item or that service? Make a list of the top three qualities that you wanted. Then, under each quality, list how the product or service did or did not fulfill your expectations.
Now, develop your writing from a list to an essay. Write an introductory paragraph that tells your reader exactly what you are reviewing and why you chose that product or service. Then, take your list and write each expectation as the topic sentence of a paragraph and create the paragraph by writing about how the product or service suited your expectations by using details, examples, and experiences. Finally, wrap up with a conclusion that makes a final recommendation about the product or service to someone else—remembering that your goal is to help someone with a decision.
Peer review can seem a little daunting if you’ve never done it before. You might think that you do not have much to offer by way of guidance. This is not true. A reader who is thoughtful and concerned can always offer support to a writer. First, be kind. This is the most important rule. People can be defensive of what they have written, and it serves no purpose to be harsh. Let people know what they are doing well in their writing. Let them know what they can improve. There is always something positive that you can say truthfully. Maybe you like the topic or the thesis, or perhaps there is a paragraph that really stands out to you because it is well written. Find the positive attributes and work forward from there.
Next, it is important to let the writer know, in a gentle way, what could be improved. Perhaps the thesis statement would benefit by being written like this: “The product for this review is _________, and my recommendation about the product is _______, based on _______, ______, and _____.” Maybe the body paragraphs do not support the thesis. It could be that the conclusion is repetitive and needs to focus more on what the writer recommends overall about a product or service. It is up to you to decide what suggestions would be most helpful.
Peer review can be helpful to the writer, plus it can help the reader to read not just at a surface level, but at a deeper level with greater understanding. You can’t skim an essay and write an appropriate peer review. You have to focus and concentrate and really think about how the essay is structured and the message you get from it, and then explain what the writer could improve. The peer review process takes a little getting used to, but you will probably find that you enjoy this work and are happy to help other students with your positive and insightful comments. There is also the bonus that your peers will write reviews for you, as well. This should help you to move your rough draft to a higher level of writing. Sometimes readers will notice problem areas that you don’t. If these issues are pointed out to you kindly, heed them and be grateful.
Sometimes people will make suggestions that you just don’t agree with. Take what is helpful, and let the rest go. When it comes down to it, it is your name that goes on the essay. You need to feel comfortable with what you submit. It is always wise to take your teacher’s advice, however, when it comes to your writing.
The following are questions that will help you to construct appropriate peer review responses. Not every question will be applicable for each essay. It is best to ask for guidance about what to focus on during the weeks that you are working with peer review.
1. Is there a title page, and does it follow APA format?
2. Is the introduction four or five sentences, ending with a thesis statement?
3. Does the thesis statement stand out and include all main points?
4. Are there at least five paragraphs in the essay?
5. Do the body paragraphs all support the thesis?
6. Does the conclusion make a final recommendation about the product or service?
7. Are there spelling and grammar mistakes that need to be cleaned up?
8. Are any paraphrases and quotations done using APA style?
9. Is there an appropriate APA style References page?
10. What are your favorite aspects of this essay?
Be sure to treat others as you would like to be treated. This will contribute to a positive class environment and a successful learning experience for all.
Peer reviewing is just one of many skills you will develop throughout this term. It is a tool you can add to your writing toolbox. An added benefit is that this skill is transferable to the workplace, as well. The more you work with peer review in class, the more comfortable you will be when called upon to participate in this process in the workplace.