MEAD, K. S.; Denison University, Granville, OH: How Do You Make Peer Review Safe And Effective In An Undergraduate Science
Students write better for each other than for their instructor. I have tried to simultaneously use this desire to appear in a good light to peers and structure the exercise in such a way that the possibility of embarrassment does not paralyze the participants. The current set of ground rules includes the following precepts: 1) students experience peer review multiple times during the semester, so that they gain practice with all its elements. 2) All peer review exercises are anonymous in both directions: the reviewer does not know the name of the writer, and the writer does not know the name of the reviewer. 3) Each student paper is read by three people: two anonymous reviewers and me. 4) The reviewer is graded (by me) on his/her review, and the maximum possible point value is similar to the maximum possible point value of the grade that they assign to the reviewed paper: the stakes are even. 5) Before we do this exercise, we decide as a group the relative weight of my grades and the peer grades. 6) The work being reviewed is an independent project done in groups, with the reader and reviewer belonging to different research teams minimizing the likelihood of plagiarism. 7) As much as possible, I try to make sure that each person sees a paper that is stronger than their paper (to provide inspiration), and a paper that is weaker than their paper so that they can help. 8) Students have an opportunity to rewrite their manuscripts, incorporating comments. 9) When comments conflict, I discuss options. Despite some anxiety about this exercise, students quickly learn what is expected from them. The weaker students, especially, seem to benefit from multiple readers and comments. Seeing student comments on each otherís manuscripts helps me realize what they think is important, and thus helps me fine-tune assignments and how I teach scientific writing.