Peer Review Process
What many people, students and faculty alike, sometimes think of as “revision” actually comes closer to line editing. That
is, it focuses on correcting errors rather than on larger questions of content and structure. While sentence-level work does form part of the Writers’ Center’s process and of the tutors’ tasks, the larger mission of peer review as practiced in the Farnham Writers’ Center is “deep revision.” This kind of revision occurs during a dialogic process between a writer and a tutor, or for that matter, anyone who functions as an audience and “ideal reader” for the writer. Successful deep revision arises out of an exchange that is essentially interrogative: the tutor listens actively to the writer’s work read aloud and asks questions designed to prompt the writer into recognizing where and how s/he can make improvements to bring the piece of writing into greater clarity and focus.
Deep revision addresses aspects of writing:
- Organizing principle: Does the piece of writing have a strong thesis, position, controlling idea, or other organizing principle?
- Argument and counterargument: Does it present convincing points as support? Does it acknowledge opposing points and use them to advance the writer’s argument? Does it make use of ethical, logical, and emotional appeals?
- Flow: Does it contain a coherent organizational structure, flowing fluidly from one point to another?
- Transitions: Does it make brief but effective transitions?
- Conclusion: Does it end with a true conclusion that suggests implications rather merely summarizing?
While peer review does not “fix” sentence-level and grammatical problems by correcting them, tutors guide writers toward sentence-level and grammatical improvements in several ways. These include:
- Patterns of error: Tutors look for and point out repeated errors in the same area, for example, with verbs or singular-plural agreement, offer a general explanation of the problem, and point writers to source materials or to guidebooks with fuller explanations.
- Incorporation of quotations: Tutors offer feedback on the use of quotations and how to incorporate them smoothly into the body of the writing.
- Documentation: Tutors direct writers to thorough sources for documentation and citations, such as the links on our homepage under “So Many Styles…Documentation.”
General Revision Tips
- Allow at least a couple of hours between completion of your draft and returning to it to revise. This will let you come back to it with fresh eyes and see things you might have missed earlier.
- Read your piece of writing aloud to someone else or alone and listen for areas where you stumble. These are clues to places where you might want to improve writing flow or language.
- Break your revision process down into a series of smaller, manageable steps. For example, do one revision pass only to eliminate wordiness, another to remove passive voice, a third to make sure you incorporate all quotations.