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Some Advice About Peer Editing

It's All In the Details

Make your responses as detailed as possible.  In some cases, this may mean offering more detail than the writer whom you are helping.  Don't worry about this.  The more detailed you make your comments and arguments, the more you accustom yourself to the language of critical peer review, and the more you will become aware of these issues in your own writing.  Draw on examples from the text whenever possible, but always state the reason(s) you respond the way you do.

Honesty, the Best Policy

In order to be as helpful as you can to your peer, be honest about what confuses you, what isn't working well in the essay, or what may be a mistake in the interpretation of the assignment--or even the choice of topic for the assignment.  By the same token, demand honesty and thoroughness from your peers in their responses to your essay.  This ordinarily creates a kind of covenant among peer editors that makes everyone responsible to one another at the same level of commitment.

Push Yourself As You Push Others

Go outside your "comfort zone" to make editing suggestions.  You may not be quite sure that a writer is guilty of subject/verb agreement errors or tone errors, but taking the chance to point them out forces writers to study those places further.  If you're wrong about the errors you've pointed out, they will learn why, and vice versa:  you'll be forced to learn what makes some usage correct and others not.

Interpret the Questions Intellectually

Peer editing is not a multiple choice process; rather, it's interpret.  Critical thinking is required, and the first act of critical thinking is to find the question within the question.  Some questions on the peer editing handout are intentionally vague so that you will make them your own and temper them with your own point of view about what the assignment calls for.  Translate questions in a way that makes sense to you; think creatively about how they apply to, both, the assignment and the topic chosen by your peer.

Identify Yourself

In order to develop a working relationship with your peers, writing your name on everything you comment on, including their working drafts, and if you are comfortable with the idea, discuss how you might continue the peer review process outside of the classroom, in person, by e-mail, or even in an on-line chat room.

Last Updated: 01/13/2016

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Karl J. Sherlock
Associate Professor, English
Email: karl.sherlock@gcccd.edu
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Phone: 619-644-7871

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