how to give feedback on a peer’s paper

It is very good practice for doctoral and early career researchers to get feedback from peers about their writing. Indeed, many experienced researchers and writers do this too.

 Here are some things to try out when giving feedback on writing.

The stance to take:

  • Doctoral writers are likely to feel very vulnerable but this doesn’t mean you ought not to offer constructive criticism. It is patronizing to assume that you have to be nice. So…
  • Be appreciative. The basic premise is not to tear strips off the piece but to encourage further writing. This is a draft and the writer is looking for helpful feedback not an assassination.

Some moves to make:  

  • Summarise the argument so that the writer can see/hear whether you have grasped what they think they have said.
  • Identify the contribution that you think the article makes. It might be helpful to think about what you know at the end of the article that you didn’t know before you read it.
  • Identify the strengths of the article
  • Then get the writer to be specific about the other feedback they want so you can make sure that you pay attention to those things
  • Differentiate between secretarial tasks – spelling, grammar, paragraphs, headings, layout, forms of expression – and writing issues – whether the argument is clear, whether the question is addressed as promised, whether the writing is well organised and structured, and whether claims are justified given the evidence provided.

Remember too to give feedback for improvement that is do-able and achievable.

About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
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