Peer Review – Why Do People Make Bad Judgments?

As you read your peer’s drafts, write margin comments and an end comment to help the writer improve the global dimensions of their writing

A good margin comment will:

  • Be generous and considerate in tone;
  • Describe what you see or think as a reader – especially describe the purpose of each chunk of the paper you evaluate, leading to a diagnosis of a problem or description of an improvement to be made;
  • Suggest a specific strategy for improvement;
  • Engage the writer’s ideas by asking leading questions, providing further detail, suggesting specific materials for inclusion, or playing the doubting game with the writer.
  • Indicate whether this is a high-, medium-, or low-priority issue.

To insure that you practice the describe-diagnose-suggest-engage commenting structure, please comment on each paragraph of your peer’s paper and label each part of your comments with the following labels: Describe, diagnose, suggest, engage.

Experienced reviewers pay attention to the global dimensions of a peer’s writing. They:

  • analyze drafts for idea development, claims, evidence and organization;
  • identify solid elements of a draft as well as targeted opportunities for revision;
  • consider organization from a reader’s point-of-view;
  • go beyond merely identifying problems and offer concrete, specific suggestions for revision;
  • participate fully in peer review markup and group discussion of drafts;
  • embrace revision as an opportunity to transform a project.

Some markers of solid critique of one’s own and others’ work include:

  • Comments on drafts that address idea development, claims and evidence, and organization
  • Comments on drafts that offer specific suggestions for change, not merely a critique of weak spots.
  • Discussion of a peer’s ideas include exploration of the ideas in the project, suggestions regarding implications, possible opportunities for extension, and even counterarguments.

This is what good comments look like:

Sample of good peer review comment
Good comments describe, diagnose, suggest, and engage

Aim for no more than two or three comments per page.

In an end comment, write some sentences that give the writer an idea of your overall impression or general effect of the paper.  If you can, explain the central insight you have gotten from the paper as a careful reader.  Make suggestions about what improvements the writer should prioritize as s/he continues to develop his or her paper’s argument in global revision.

Below are my expectations for this paper reprinted from the paper assignment. Use them to help you make suggestions about how the author of the paper you’re reviewing can improve their work to better meet these expectations.

  • Orient your reader to what Kahneman says about the reasons why we make bad judgments and why it matters
  • Use signal phrases, voice markers, and pivotal words
  • Integrate your ideas with those of others using well-framed quotations and paraphrased passages
  • Demonstrate your ability to make at least three of the following moves: shine the spotlight, connect the dots, paint a picture, put under a microscope, say why it matters
  • Draw on, extend and rework materials you created during the pre-writing phases of the project
  • Write a topic-revealing title using keywords from your paper (not “Kahneman paper” or “Paper 3”). Here is some advice about how to write a good title for an academic paper.
  • Include parenthetical citations and a Works Cited page
  • Have an MLA author block and page numbers [I recommend using this MLA formatting paper template to set up your paper]
  • Write 1000 words or more

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