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#Watch: Peer Review Commenting Strategies

7 Comments on #Watch: Peer Review Commenting Strategies

Today you will share a draft of your professional bio with your writing group, and then you’ll provide feedback on the drafts of the others in your group. This video from the University of Minnesota Writing Studies program will help you figure out how to provide constructive and helpful feedback.

The MIT video on our Writing Groups page gives you some overarching suggestions for what peer review looks like. This University of Minnesota video gives you six very specific ways that you can give your writing group members feedback. If you are unsure how to make constructive comments, spend five minutes on this video. You’ll know exactly the kind of comments I’m looking for once it’s finished.

Peer Review: Commenting Strategies (video, 5m4s)

Note: This video has closed captioning, so it does not need a transcript.



I thought this video was very helpful because I’ve always had a hard time with peer reviewing other people’s work. Peer review is a great resource to utilize because it offers a chance for each of us to receive feedback and improve our work for our final submission.

To me, it seems like some of the overarching strategies of peer review from the video include:

Digesting the entire work before making any comments or criticisms – Sections that the reviewer might not understand while reading might be explained later in the work or make sense after thinking about the section in its full context. If the section still is confusing or the reviewer has a way they think it could be improved, then they can write their suggestion.

Re-framing criticisms as questions and misunderstandings – A review is not always right and even when the reviewer is right, making absolute statements about the author’s work, especially when the author disagrees, can be off-putting to the author. The purpose of peer review is to help the author, not to lambaste them. By asking the author questions and asking for clarification, the reviewer respects the author’s choices and makes the process more rewarding for both.

These strategies also help to avoid making summative feedback since comments will be questions and not judgements.

I have definitely been an offender when it comes to the “Sounds good” and “Good job” comments, mainly out of laziness and not knowing what to say. Sometimes I struggle with providing good insight into what I think about the paper, and I realize that very basic, short comments offer almost as as much feedback as providing no comments at all.

I’ve found that the “I statements” the video mentions have been extremely helpful to me in the past when I’ve received feedback, both from professors and fellow students. The main benefit of these statements, I think, is that when you read them out loud, it’s almost like you are saying the statement to yourself, putting yourself in the reader’s position and allowing you to see the confusion they saw during their reading. You become the reader, and you begin to see the flaws from their point of view, making them easier to spot.

Personally, I have never liked the end note summary unless it was paired with additional comments throughout the writing. Sometimes, I will get stuck in my own head about the errors I have and it makes it harder for me to spot them right away, so I typically benefit from a direct acknowledgment of an error that a reader has found.

I have found I statements to be the most beneficial form of feedback in my writing. The use of I, especially when read out loud, puts me in the reader’s position and allows me to see the errors from their point of view. A lot of the time, it’s harder for me to recognize my own errors, either due to ignorance or pride, and seeing my writing the way others see it enables me to be more open to their comments and the presence of my errors.

Personally, I never liked the end note summary form of feedback unless it was paired with another strategy, like the I statements. As I said, I can get stuck in my own head about my errors, and if the flaws are not directly pointed out, there is a chance that I will not find it. I feel like this is expected; otherwise, we would catch the errors during our own revision. That being said, the end note summary is typically the first place I’ll look when it comes to feedback so I can get a general idea of the comments the reader has provided throughout my writing.

I feel that one of the best things you can do while peer reviewing is to ask questions about both the paper’s thesis and (hopefully) the author’s interests. Even though this strategy doesn’t always work, the point of asking any question is to generate an idea and formulate a response. For the purpose of a paper, generating ideas can help put more content into the paper. The reason why I include the Author’s interest is because most papers written have some vestige of the authors concern. This potential common ground can be the foundation of idea generation.

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