What is a Peer Review?

In General by Think Student EditorLeave a Comment

Throughout your time at school, you will most likely have completed many written assignments as part of your assessments. As part of revision, you will often find yourself writing multiple essays. You may not always be able to receive feedback for all your written work from your teachers. This is especially the case when you start revising for your university exams. Therefore, peer reviews can be very beneficial to students.

In academia, a peer review is always used before the publishing of research. It refers to the formal process of fellow academics giving feedback to a researcher in order to identify any errors in the work. Written work at university level will often require lots of revising and editing.  Therefore, peer reviews can also be an informal process. Through this process, students can review each other’s work, and both give and receive feedback from one another before the final submission.

The above summarises what a peer review is but to find out the benefits and drawbacks of student peer reviews, I recommend you read on.

What is the purpose of a peer review?

The main purpose of a student peer review is to receive feedback for written work that you may not be able to receive from a teacher. However, not all student written work should be peer reviewed.

For example, even though a dissertation is written work, it is closely supervised by a dissertation committee. Therefore, it cannot be peer reviewed. You can find out more about dissertations here on Think Student.

Universities may have peer review programmes where students are taught how to evaluate work and provide constructive criticism. This is done by having a clear criteria that work should be assessed against.

The programme may start with students being given a sample piece of work to review and give feedback based on the set guidelines. Students can learn the correct phrasing of comments and how to make them constructive.

In addition to giving feedback, students learn to receive feedback. You may be placed into groups and review your individual feedback together.

This can typically be done through writing a plan for the revised piece of work and pointing out the changes to be made based on the feedback. You can learn how to make a feedback action plan recommended by the University of Nottingham here.

A popular peer review tool used is PeerMark which encourages students to evaluate their own classmate’s work. This can be both anonymous or attributed. You can find out more about PeerMark here.

In a university, peer reviews are not only used by students. Teachers often peer review to evaluate each other’s teaching practice to improve teaching quality. If you would like to see how this is done, check out this guide by the University of Plymouth.

Are peer reviews useful at university?

Both giving feedback and receiving feedback can be beneficial to a student.

By giving feedback, you develop critical thinking skills which can be applicable to your own work. By reviewing another student’s work, you will be able to question the areas of improvement for your own work.

This includes identifying the different strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to the same prompt. This is particularly helpful during exams when you will need to reflect on your work rather than having a teacher review it.

Receiving and reviewing good feedback could help you get a first class degree at university. You can find out more helpful tips here on Think Student.

A larger benefit of peer reviewing is that it provides students with professional experience. As mentioned above, peer reviews are often used in academic research, especially in STEM fields. Therefore, learning to peer review is a practical skill.

You can learn more about STEM subjects here on Think Student.

What are the drawbacks of peer reviews?

Whilst peer reviews do offer some benefits, if done incorrectly they can have negative impacts on a student.

Peer reviews should be conducted without bias. However, this is not always guaranteed, and fellow students may give harsh feedback and bias their feedback.

This can especially be the case when the peer reviews are anonymous. Therefore, it is important for peer review programmes to address these issues.

Another problem that can arise is that students may not necessarily have the expertise or experience to review a peer’s work.

This means that they may make surface-level corrections and overlook the more significant problems that a teacher would recognise. Alternatively, the reviewer may unintentionally offer unhelpful advice that could worsen the work.

Therefore, the reviewed piece of work will not have the required feedback for the peer to respond to.

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