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English 121: Guide

Modules for each section of English 121

Video on Peer Review and the Writing Process

Definition of Peer Review


Peer review in the academic setting is a conversation about the text between the writer and the reviewer; it is an evaluation of the text by people of similar level of experience; it is also an exercise in speaking to others about their work and an opportunity for the writer to see how the writing may be received by the audience. Therefore, any peer review creates its own rhetorical situation, with the interaction between the writer/rhetor, audience/peer reviewer, and the text/subject.


  • “It’s another group activity; I hate group activities!”
  • “What could I possibly contribute with my comments when I am not even good at writing?”
  • “What could I possibly gain from comments made by a person who knows just as little, in not less, than I do about writing?”


  1. Peer review benefits the reviewer, not necessarily the writer.
  • Having an opportunity to identify the strengths and weaknesses of someone else’s writing makes us more entuned to our own writing and able to better recognize these in our own writing.
  • Just seeing someone else’s interpretation of the same assignment, the same prompt as we had to respond to, makes us evaluate our own work more critically and decide whether we are doing well or need to improve in comparison with others.
  • Providing constructive criticism in response to others’ work builds important interpersonal skill, which will be utilized in almost any workplace we find ourselves in. It is not easy to talk to others about difficult subjects, especially if we do not wish to offend them and make them take the criticism personally, so this skill of effectively critiquing is valued among employers and worth practicing.

  1. Peer review is an eye opener for the writer even if the reviewer is “weak.”
  • As writers, we are so close to our own writing, so emotionally attached to it, that we may not be able to step back and objectively assess our own writing, not as well as objectively as it will be possible for a peer, who is not emotionally attached to the writing.
  • Being able to receive and accept constructive criticism from a reviewer builds resilience, helping us become more open to criticism both in and outside of academic setting.
  • Allowing others to review our writing builds confidence in our work even if we see ourselves as strong writers already.

  1. Most importantly, peer review benefits both the writer and the reviewer.
  • Providing and receiving constructive criticism, we become better, more effective communicators AND writers.
  • Participating in peer reviews develops skills essential in collaborative environments, making us more marketable.
  • Even if we are weak and the peer is weak, we both will learn something from the process of peer review itself. For example, in order to participate in peer reviews, we need to have a draft ready, which means that we acknowledge deadlines, show proper time management, recognize the social aspect of the writing process and the fact that we may be responsible for another person’s success in the final draft. Even if the influence we have on someone else’s writing is minimal, our adhering to the deadlines and the requirements of the peer review shows collegiality.

Doing our absolute best on the peer review will come with multiple benefits not just to our peer, but most importantly, to us.