GUIDE – Rhetorical purpose of peer review

Before you do peer reviews in my class, I want to encourage you to think about the rhetorical purpose of peer review from several perspectives.

(1) From the perspective of person whose draft you’re reviewing.

Take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of the person whose draft you’re commenting on and consider what kinds of feedback that person might find most helpful. The person might appreciate the same kind of feedback you would appreciate on your drafts — or not.

You have to pay attention to everything you know about the person thus far to figure out what kind of feedback would be most appropriate and welcome by that person. The less well you know a person, the more carefully you should couch your feedback, which might mean going into more detail with your comments. In other words, go beyond simply fulfilling an assignment and really think about the impact your comments will have on your intended reader. You’re not just doing homework; you’re talking to a real person.

You can probably guess what I’m going to say next: this is a rhetorical awareness skill! Rhetorical awareness requires that you see things from the perspective of whoever you’re communicating with, and that you recognize that their perspective may be different from yours.

(2) From the perspective of yourself as a student in a writing class..

The main reason we ask students in writing classes to do peer reviews is actually not what you might think. It’s not to benefit the students whose drafts you’re commenting on, as not every student gives good advice.

Rather, the bigger benefit is to the one giving the feedback, as peer reviews force you to study other people’s writing from the perspective of its rhetorical effectiveness, not simply whether you like it or not. And the more practice you get at studying other people’s writing from that perspective, the better you’ll get at studying your own writing — and revising as needed.

The peer review guidelines also help you better understand what kinds of issues matter more in the context of this class and what kinds of issues matter less (or only matter later in the writing process, like editing and proofreading). By following peer review guidelines, you’ll learn more about what the class is designed to teach.

(3) From the perspective of the instructor..

You may not have given this much thought in the past, but I encourage you to think about it now: what do you think I’m looking for in your peer review comments? What is it you think I want to see, based on what I’ve written above, on the course Learning Goals page, and elsewhere?

Although the student whose draft you’re commenting on is your primary audience, I’m obviously an important secondary audience as I will be evaluating your peer review comments over the semester in order to determine your Class Engagement grade.