Peer review and self-monitoring
Most academic writers are happy to have their writing reviewed by another person. It is not uncommon for a writer to give a copy of an article that they are submitting for publication to a colleague for final checking. It is also normal for the editors of a journal to return the submission to the author with comments made by referees and a list of amendments that need to be made. Feedback from colleagues and from journal editors is always valued by writers because they can learn from this.
Getting useful feedback from your colleagues via peer review
Peer review is one way of learning about your own writing. It is based on the idea that other people, who have not been involved in the writing process, know things and can see things that we do not; and that we can always learn something from others, even if they are not experts themselves. Essentially, it means giving a piece of your writing to a colleague, and asking them to give you feedback on it.
Peer review works better if the arrangement is reciprocal. This is useful as it helps you to improve your editing skills by editing your reviewer’s writing. However, be aware that peer reviewing needs to be planned properly. It is not something that can be done at the last minute. Finally, keep your texts relatively short. Do not expect your colleague to read much more than 1000 words at any one time.
Getting useful feedback via self-monitoring
Self-monitoring is a way of getting useful feedback on your writing. It allows you some control over the feedback that you receive and allows you to discuss aspects of the text you are not sure about. It should also provide you with positive feedback, which is a good motivator.
How do I self-monitor?
(Please print out and make reference to this.)
Once you have completed a draft of your writing and you are ready to give it to your peer reviewer or your supervisor, you should do the following:
- Ask your reviewer/supervisor if he/she would respond to the questions/comments.
- Decide what type of feedback you want from your ‘editor’. Do you want feedback on:
- overall structure?
- organisation of ideas?
- grammatical accuracy?
- writing style?
- coherence of argument?
- ways of demonstrating data?
- Ask specific questions. Do not be vague. Underline and number the parts of the text with which you are dissatisfied. Annotate the problem areas with questions.
- Do not feel that you are imposing on your supervisor by self-monitoring. Your supervisor is there to help you become a competent researcher, and becoming a good writer is an essential part of being a researcher.
- Do not be put off by what you may perceive as the ‘low’ quality of your work. You are seeking help to improve the quality. You are not yet an expert, so seek help from an expert.
- Do not be put off by showing ‘imperfect’ work. By its very nature, a draft will never be ‘perfect’.
- If the feedback you receive from your peer reviewer is minimal and/or of little use to you, then ask more specific questions to obtain useful feedback. Alternatively, find yourself another ‘editor’.
- Do not always focus on the negative aspects of your writing. Get feedback on what you have done well.
- When you attend a feedback meeting, be prepared. Question and discuss, do not just listen. Be active, not passive.
How to review someone’s writing - giving useful feedback
(Please print out and make reference to this).
- Did you feel ‘lost’ when you read any of the sections?
- Which ones?
- How is the text organised? (Divisions/sections may not be explicit.)
- What does each section aim to do?
- Does each section actually do what it aims to do?
- Are the links within sections and between sections clear and logical?
- Does any part of the text need clarifying?
- Which part(s)?
- Does any part of the text need expanding? (Is additional information required for clarification?)
- Which part(s) and why?
- What additional information is needed?
- Does any part of the text need condensing? (Is the text too ‘wordy’?)
- Which part(s) and why?
- Which words are repetitive or redundant?
- Does any part of the text need changing?
- Which part(s)?
- How and why?
- Does the overall structure of the text make sense? If not, why not?
- Are there any obvious contradictions or inconsistencies in logic? Where?
- Are the citations/quotations properly referenced?
- Are there any citations missing? Where?
- Is the writing in an appropriate style that is clear and easy to read?
- Are there any grammatical or vocabulary errors?
- What do you like about the text? (Try to end on a positive note.)