Peer Review: Commenting Strategies
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Peer Review: Commenting Strategies

In peer review there are two roles: the author,
who submits a paper for review, and the reviewer, who reads the paper and provides comments.
This video focuses on the reviewer role. Students often ask: “how can I be a better
peer reviewer?” And the answer lies in a constructive review process. In A Short Course in Writing, Kenneth Bruffee
says “In peer criticism, students learn to write helpful criticism of each other’s
work”. He says that four terms in this sentence are
critical to peer review: learn, write, helpful, and each other’s.” In this spirit, we offer strategies for peer
review comments. Our first strategy is to ask questions as
an interested reader. Questions capture reader response and keep
the conversation going between author and reviewer. If you don’t understand something,
ask the author! Authors want to know what you’re thinking! Once you get the hang of it, you can think
of all kinds of questions. Another commenting strategy is to focus on
global aspects before local aspects of the draft Global aspects affect the whole text, which
means that as a reviewer, you must READ the entire document before making any comments.
Reading the whole document will allow you to get a sense of the central goals of the
text and ask key questions about purpose, audience, or organization. Local aspects are also important, but save
them for last. Local aspects address sentence-level and paragraph-level
items, often referred to as “proofreading.” They include things like spelling, punctuation,
grammar, and word usage. Local aspects are really important for the
final edit. But remember:
Peer review involves both global and local aspects.
Global comments are most crucial for helping authors make big changes overall. Local comments
are most useful for the final editing stage, when attention to detail is needed. Another strategy for reviewer comments is
to use the language of assignment criteria. These criteria are often articulated on an
assignment sheet, or in class. Criteria for assignments can be transformed
into rubrics for peer review, and reviewers can respond directly to criteria items. Criteria might include things like: “state
a clear thesis” or “incorporate supporting evidence” or “include proper documentation
of sources,” and reviewers can comment on each item. Another strategy is to turn negative comments
into constructive criticism using “I statements” in combination with a suggestion. So for example, instead of saying “This
paragraph doesn’t make sense,” you could say “I can’t follow this paragraph. Can
you state your main point more clearly in the beginning?” Instead of saying “this graphic is pointless”
you could offer an I statement with a suggestion and say “I Iike the information but don’t
understand the overall purpose of this graphic. Can you at least provide a title?” Another commenting strategy is to avoid the
“sounds good” comment, or if you use it, provide a reason. The problem with only using the “sounds
good” comment is that it is vague and doesn’t tell the author what they’ve done well.
When you want to compliment the author, explain your compliment. Tell them why you like what
they’ve done. Finally, another strategy is to use an end
note. An end note is a great way to summarize your comments. A short paragraph at the end
of the document will do. Remember to list your most important comments, questions, and
suggestions. The author will thank you! So, let’s review. How can you be a better
peer reviewer? Ask questions as an interested reader.
Focus on global before local aspects Use the language of assignment criteria.
Offer constructive criticism and use I statements. Offer reasons for your positive comments.
AND Write an end note for the author. We hope these suggestions help improve the
peer review process.

About Ralph Robinson

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5 thoughts on “Peer Review: Commenting Strategies

  1. Peer Review: In academia, a group of faceless people who will review your paper/article/book/opinion, reject it in a phrase, and leave you without tenure, publication, or self respect, and of course the not so subtle implication that although you are a peer you’re not a peer to them. (See Franz Kafka)
    from Dr. Mezmer’s Dictionary of Bad Psychology, at

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