Saturday, November 22, 2014

Working with Peer Feedback

By: Sarah Sansolo

So your paper has been peer reviewed. Now what? It can often be difficult to sort through what your classmates have to say and figure out what and who to listen to. A lot of students put peer comments aside and don’t use them at all. What do your classmates know, after all? They’re not the professor. Obviously the professor has the final say, and most of us try to tailor our writing to what he or she wants.

Great writers, though, look to their peers for help. Some creative writers spend years in writing workshops to hone their craft. They recognize the importance of multiple viewpoints and you should, too.

·      Using your test audience. Anyone who reads your paper—a classmate, your roommate, a writing consultant, your mom—is a test audience for your work. This is the one thing that a writer can’t do for him or herself. It’s impossible to know how others will react to your writing unless you ask them to read it. You know what you meant when you wrote that sentence, but can somebody else understand it?
·      Your classmates are experts. “No,” you say, “I’m pretty sure my classmates don’t know much about marine biology or Jane Austen or politics in Taiwan.” Maybe not, but there is one thing they’re experts in: your class. They’ve done the same homework and sat through the same discussions. They’ve spent as much time as you have reading the assignment sheet and thinking about how to respond to it. They remember what your professor said when she clarified what kinds of sources to use. A peer might not know all about your topic, but he or she knows the class and the assignment.
·      Find trustworthy voices. While your classmates are a great resource, not all of them will be helpful. Some readers will simply not be interested in what you have to say or will misunderstand your point in a way that reflects more on them than on your clarity. But there will be someone in your class who understands what you’re trying to do and gives you great suggestions to improve your writing. This peer is a great resource to have. Ask him if you can swap your next drafts or if you can meet up to chat about ideas.
·      Trust yourself. In the end, it’s your paper. You should take in peer comments and think about them carefully, but you don’t have to use them. You know what you want to say and what you don’t better than anyone.

If you’re not sure how to incorporate your peer comments or which reviewers you should listen to, bring your paper and your peer review materials to the Writing Center. Our consultants can help you sort through feedback in a way that will make your paper stronger.

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