University of Wisconsin–Madison

Preparing Students in Advance for Peer Review

Stephanie White, Writing Across the Curriculum

It’s important to take some time to talk about your expectations, methods, and beliefs about peer review before your first peer review of the semester. By preparing your students in advance for peer review, you’ll help both writers and reviewers take ownership of the process and get the most out of the experience.

If you have 5 minutes…

Explain peer review to your students. Tell them why you believe it’s important and useful. Emphasize how you want reviewers to be critical in a constructive way.

If you have 10 minutes…

Have a couple of students volunteer to tell the class about their experiences with peer review. Next, tell the class why you believe peer review is important and that you’re asking them to be constructively critical. Highlight your students’ positive experiences and offer solutions for avoiding the negative ones.

If you have 15 minutes or more…

After you explain peer review to your students, you have many options:


Ask students about their past experiences with peer review and discuss the pros and cons of each experience.

Dos and Don’ts

Generate a list together of dos and don’ts for peer review. Have your students take the lead while you or a student writes down these ideas. Prepare a list of your own beforehand to add after your students are out of ideas (but don’t be surprised if they’ve already covered them all!).

After class, type up the list, using your students’ wording as much as possible to ensure their ownership of the concepts.

During the first peer review section and every subsequent one, distribute the list and remind students that these are their own ideas.

Practice Review (thinking ahead for another semester)

Distribute copies of a student’s paper from a previous semester (with, of course, the student’s permission), or use a sample you write yourself. As a class, do a peer review session of this paper. Afterwards, talk about what was useful and what wasn’t. Generate a list, as above.

Peer Review Analysis (thinking ahead for another semester)

This semester, videotape some peer review sessions. Next semester, play excerpts from successful peer review sessions and discuss with students what was effective about these.