Successful peer review

Last Updated: January 15, 2024
A woman smiles as she participates in a group video call

How this will help:

Recognize the benefits of peer reviews.
Convey best practices and how to conduct peer reviews to their students.

The basics

You may have participated in or assigned a peer review assignment prior to this module. Regardless of your level of experience, you may have already formed opinions regarding the use of peer reviews as an education tool. When considering online courses, peer reviews can be a great and helpful option for you and your students. When facilitated correctly, these reviews can have a positive impact on distance learning.

Peer reviews and preconceived opinions

Peer reviews are an excellent tool for helping writers view their work from a broader lens. There is sometimes hesitation from students towards peer review assignments. They may feel it is unproductive, view it as busy work, or do not understand how to conduct them. However, online tools such as Google Docs and other platforms can help with the facilitation of peer feedback. For peer reviews to be successful, it is important for instructors to be clear about the objectives, processes, and takeaways that are expected. Prior to assigning a peer review, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What course or assignment goals will your students fulfill by participating in peer review? 
  • How do you want peer review to happen in your online course? 
  • What will your students get out of this experience?

These guiding questions will ensure that the peer review is conducted correctly, effectively, and will enhance the learning process of each student. 

Why use peer review?

There are many benefits to using peer reviews in your online course. Many instructors include peer review to help students refine the final product of a particular assignment. This process allows students to strengthen communication and enhance their writing, skills that can translate into any discipline. The list below outlines additional outcomes that can result from successfully incorporating peer review into your online teaching. 

1. Gives students an opportunity to test their work on other audiences

By participating in peer review, students can gauge the responses of other readers, who may offer insights previously unconsidered. Since arguably most students view their instructors as their primary audience, peer review can help them consider other audience members’ needs and questions.

2. Gives students a chance to learn from others’ work

By participating in peer review, students can look to other models of work and consider how those approaches might work in their own projects. Furthermore, commenting on a peer’s work can help students be more objective and reflective about their own.

3. Teaches students to ask critical questions

By participating in peer review, students can learn how to ask productive questions about projects for which they identify weaknesses, as well as projects that they already consider well done.

4. Models the kind of collaborative work done in many fields

Learning how to offer constructive feedback to peers is essential to many fields, including business (e.g., when someone pitches an idea to the board), technical writing (e.g., collaborating on a workplace manual), science (e.g., responding to a colleague’s methods), and community outreach (e.g., voicing concerns to improve a community space). 

Watch the video below to see how faculty at Auburn University mended their students’ ambivalence towards using peer review online.

Practical tips

Creating a successful peer review

Develop clear guidelines and prompts for students to follow

  • What would happen if you ________ ?
  • I noticed that you ________ . Would it be better to ________ ?
  • What do you think about ________ ?
  • One thing I didn’t understand was _________ – can you tell me more?

Use technology

  • Skype, Google Hangouts, BlueJeans, Zoom (synchronous sessions)
  • Google Docs, Box Notes, discussion board (asynchronous sessions)

Assess the process

  • How does it fit into the course/assignment concepts?
  • Will it be a standalone assignment or a percentage of another?
  • Create a rubric for minimum requirements 
  • Have students submit a reflection on learning experience


University of Michigan

Faculty member Jeremiah Chamberlin’s blog on workshopping 

Other Resources 

Developing Writers- Guide to feedback 

Southwestern- Benefits to peer review 

University of British Columbia- Using peer review 


Cassel, S. (2018, July 9). Peer review done right. Retrieved from

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