Guidelines for In-Class Peer Review

Professor David Sorkin, History and Jewish Studies, UW-Madison
Professor David Sorkin not only asks students to focus their efforts on global writing concerns like argument, analysis, and clarity, but also gives them specific language for doing so.
Peer Review Instructions

Please read this sheet carefully in order to know how you are to help your peers.

Bring three copies of your paper to class.

Each of you will read your paper aloud. Reading aloud is the best way to judge the clarity and coherence of a paper because it enables us to connect the written word with the spoken one. If an argument has broken off; if a sentence is unclear, wordy, inaccurate or pretentious; if there is a lack of evidence; or if there is a logical gap—all of these will be immediately obvious (to the writer as well as the reviewers). Reading aloud can be a humbling experience, there is no denying that, but it is also a fundamentally productive one.

Reviewers: Concentrate on your own response to the paper rather than rendering judgment. Use the first person (e.g., “I hear...”, “I didn’t understand...”, “I’m confused about...”, “I’d like to hear more about...”, “I couldn’t follow...”). Avoid using the second person (e.g., “you should”, “you need to”, “you ought to”). Responses are a clear guide because they enable the writer to rethink the issues on his/her own. Your responses (1st person) are easier to listen to and accept, and in thus in the end more effective, than your judgments (2nd person).


Peer Review Process
  1. Hand a copy of your paper to each of your peer reviewers.
  2. Read your paper aloud slowly; pause at the end of each paragraph to give yourself and your reviewers time to write comments.
  3. When you are finished reading, discuss the paper candidly using 1st-person responses. Make sure the writer has time to write down the comments.
  4. Reviewers: when you have finished discussing the paper, answer the “Peer Review Questions” and then hand the completed form, and your copy of the paper, to the writer.
  5. Writer: when you hand in your paper
    1. please be sure to include the reviewer forms as well. Staple them to your paper.
    2. please write me a note describing what you found helpful/unhelpful in reading aloud and peer review and how you revised your paper in light of the process.


Peer Review Questions

Writer Name:

Reviewer Name:

Introduction. Is the first paragraph an adequate statement of the paper’s topic and approach? Did you know from the first paragraph where the paper was headed?
Continuity. Is the line of argument clear from paragraph to paragraph? Did each paragraph add to the argument?
Evidence. Did the writer support the argument in a convincing manner? Were quotations from the text well chosen?
Conclusion. Does the conclusion draw together the strands of the argument? Is it a sufficient statement of the paper’s main points?
Strengths. What did you find best in the paper?