Does hearing the words "peer review" put a sinking feeling in your stomach? If so, you’re not alone.
Many students dislike, or even fear, one or both sides of the peer review process. Some feel like they don’t get worthwhile feedback, while others may be afraid to come across as too harsh. However, there’s nothing to be afraid of—there are significant benefits both to reviewing others’ work and getting peer feedback of your own. Peer review can help you strengthen your writing abilities, teach you strategies to give and receive feedback, and allow you to learn how to write for different audiences. Keep reading to learn five ways peer review can benefit you.
Peer review can strengthen your future writing
It may seem obvious that peer review can improve your work at the moment, but how does feedback on one particular essay today affect your future writing? When you participate in peer review, you’ll learn more about how people react to your writing in a general sense. Do they have trouble following your logic? Are there certain phrases or grammatical mistakes that are frequently identified? Or do you often receive feedback to use stronger verbs or avoid repetition? Once you’ve noticed similar comments a few times, you’ll be able to better spot those issues in your own work.
You can become a better reader through peer review
When you train yourself to critically read your classmates’ work, you’ll learn how to absorb the information more completely and analyze it as you go. We’re often used to skimming over what we read. When you’re reading purposefully to give feedback, however, it’s natural that you’ll be more thoughtful and absorb the information with a more analytical eye. You can use this skill not only in peer review, but also in reviewing your own work.
Peer review will help you learn how to give and receive constructive feedback
This is a valuable skill in many areas of your life, even those that have nothing to do with writing. For example, if you find yourself in a career someday where you’re supervising other employees, being able to communicate feedback clearly, fairly, and effectively will be one of your most important roles. Also, it’s important to learn how to receive feedback without becoming overly defensive or hurt and to learn from others’ opinions. You’ll likely face many occasions in your school or working life when you’ll be asked to collaborate with others. It’s helpful to learn strategies for doing that successfully and not taking to heart suggestions for improvement.
It’s important to learn how to receive feedback without becoming overly defensive or hurt and to learn from others’ opinions.
Participating in peer review will encourage you to produce multiple drafts
You know how it typically goes—if the only deadline you have for an essay is the final one, the tendency to procrastinate can sneak up on you. Before you know it, you’re writing your whole paper the night before it’s due, with no time for revisions. Having to go through a peer review process not only forces you to get an earlier start on your work, it also guarantees your first draft won’t be your last.
You will learn how to write for different audiences through peer review
When you’re writing for a particular professor, you may not think about how your work would be received by readers who are less familiar with the topic. Writing for peer review is more like writing for a general audience, and that fact can help you remember to be more clear and complete in your reasoning.
Remember, peer reviews are a way to gather opinions that will strengthen your work. You can always disregard feedback you don’t agree with, but more often than not, the risk will be worth the reward.
Lora Wegman is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.