GUIDE – Use Google Docs for peer reviews

Common Teaching Issue:

Doing peer review with Word files results in too many separate copies of each draft

Anyone who has asked students to do peer review by downloading copies of their classmates’ drafts, inserting comments, and then uploading the file back to a class web space knows what a hassle it becomes when each student ends up with multiple copies of his or her draft, each with a different set of comments. The writer then has to figure out how to make sense of feedback across multiple documents, and the peer reviewers miss out on the opportunity to respond to what other reviewers have commented on.

My solution

Before Google Docs had the capacity to address this issue, I attempted to solve it by arranging workshops so that peer reviews happened in a sequence. The first reviewer would download the assigned draft and comment on it, then re-upload it, and the second reviewer would then download that version, add comments to it, and re-upload it. And so on. That way each subsequent peer reviewer was able to see earlier comments and to agree, disagree, or expand on them, as applicable.

When Google Docs upgraded its comment feature from in-text notes to bubbles in the margin (the way Microsoft Word displays comments), I switched to using Google Docs for peer reviews. Students put their drafts in a folder in our class collection on Google Docs, and their peer reviewers open the drafts within Google Docs and add their comments. Multiple reviewers can add comments at the same time, or in a sequence, and all the comments reside on the same document, visible to everyone.


  • The student writer can find all peer comments on the same document within Google Docs. (Or he or she can download the document and open it in Word, where the comment bubbles will remain intact.) This is also a benefit to the instructor, who no longer has to keep track of multiple files in order to give peer reviewers credit.
  • Peer reviewers can see what others have written, which might inspire them to write more insightful comments. They can also enter into conversation with other reviewers, agreeing with, disagreeing with, or expanding on what they’ve written, which gives the writer more insight into how readers respond to the draft.


For handouts on how to upload files to Google Docs, share them in collections, insert comments, and so on, browse the Using Google Drive category on the sidebar.