After writing an essay, your teacher asks you to switch papers with another student and do a peer review. What do you do? What do you look for? How do you help that student improve his paper? This video lesson will answer those questions and give you tips on how to complete a thorough peer review.

Peer Reviews

You have written a rough draft for your essay. Now what do you do? You should ask a peer to complete a peer review. Peer reviews can be extremely useful if they are well thought out. But how do you review a peer’s essay? The best way to complete a peer review is to analyze the three basic parts of every essay: the introduction, the body paragraphs, and the conclusion.

The Introduction

The first section to read in your peer’s essay is the introduction. The introduction is the opening paragraph that presents the main idea. In order for the introduction to be effective, it must clarify the main idea and interest the reader. One way to think of the introduction is an inverted triangle. The opening sentence should be broad but interesting to the reader. Each following sentence should narrow the topic down to a specific thesis, which is the tip of the triangle. Use this visual to determine if your peer’s introduction is organized logically.

As you read the introduction, ask yourself, ‘Do I want to keep reading the rest of this paper?’ If the introduction does not interest you enough to keep reading, then your peer needs to add an intriguing element, something to hook the reader. This could be a hypothetical question, a definition, or even a short story. For example, if the paper’s topic is basketball, your peer may want to start with a short story of something exciting that happened in a game he played. Or the first sentence could be the hypothetical question ‘What is basketball?’, and then explain the importance of basketball in the following sentences. Based on the paper topic, suggest a creative method to make the introduction catch the reader’s interest.

Another question to ask for the introduction is ‘What is the thesis?’ The thesis is the main idea of the entire essay. Every introduction paragraph needs to have a clear thesis. Try to write your peer’s thesis down in your own words. If you find this difficult, then you need to help your peer with his thesis. A strong thesis should have a specific point of view and supporting details. Here is a weak thesis: ‘I like to play basketball.’ This tells the reader that the essay will probably be about basketball, but it is unsupported and much too vague.

A better thesis would be ‘Basketball is very beneficial to teenagers because it promotes teamwork, motivates teens to exercise, and creates well-rounded students.’ This thesis is very strong. It has a clear viewpoint and three supporting details. Usually, three is the best number of supporting details.

The Body

Now that you have reviewed your peer’s introduction paragraph, it’s time to look at the body paragraphs. These are the meat of the essay, as each one should have in-depth examples and the evidence for the thesis. Many essays are 5-paragraph essays, which should then have three body paragraphs. Each paragraph should correspond with the supporting detail in the thesis.

As an example, let’s look at the strong thesis from the introduction section. ‘Basketball is very beneficial to teenagers because it promotes teamwork, motivates teens to exercise, and creates well-rounded students.’ If this was the thesis of your peer’s essay, then the first body paragraph should be about promoting teamwork, the second about motivating teens to exercise, and the third about creating well-rounded students, and that is the order given in the thesis.

As you read the body paragraphs, check to make sure that your peer has included examples and evidence. The evidence should convince you, as the reader, that the author is correct in his beliefs. For example, in this essay, evidence to show how basketball promotes exercise would be statistics on the fitness of teens who play the sport compared to those who don’t. Be sure to check that your peer included evidence or examples to prove his point.

Another aspect to check the body paragraphs for is the transitions. Each paragraph should flow into the next one. One way to make sure this happens is to have topic and closing sentences. Topic sentences introduce briefly the main idea of the paragraph, and closing sentences conclude each paragraph.

A sample topic sentence for the first body paragraph of the basketball essay could be ‘Teamwork is a great benefit of playing basketball.’ This sentence tells the reader that paragraph will be about teamwork in basketball. A closing sentence could then be ‘This is why basketball promotes teamwork.’ These transitional sentences help keep the essay organized and indicate to the reader when topics change. Overall, make sure each body paragraph connects to the thesis and has transitional sentences.

The Conclusion

The final section to review in your peer’s essay is the conclusion. You can think of the conclusion as the opposite of the introduction. If the introduction sets up the whole essay, then the conclusion needs to summarize and wrap-up the essay. The conclusion would then be an upright triangle. It should begin specific by restating the thesis. Then summarize the main points made in the essay, and finally end with a broad idea or statement. A good final sentence for the essay on basketball could be ‘Overall, basketball has much to teach every person who ventures to dribble up the court.’ You should feel closure when you read the final sentence.

The Essay Overall

After you analyze the three main parts of the essay, there are some things to consider for the overall essay. First, check for spelling and grammar. If you see any punctuation errors or misspellings, explain to your peer his mistakes and how to correct them.

Second, ask yourself ‘Does this essay demonstrate audience awareness?’ What is the overall tone? Is the academic level appropriate for this topic? Usually, essays are written for teachers or professors. With that in mind, be sure your peer has included academic vocabulary and wording to make his essay seem more reliable.

Lesson Summary

While completing a peer review, you need to analyze the three main parts of the essay. For the introduction, check that your peer has used a creative way to catch the reader’s interest and included a strong thesis. In the body paragraphs, look for topic and closing sentences and evidence to support the thesis. For the conclusion, check that your peer has summarized his main points and provided closure. Last, make sure the overall tone is appropriate and look for any grammar and spelling errors.

A good rule of thumb is pretend you are the teacher. What grade would you give that essay? Why? Explain your reasoning using the tips in this lesson, and your peer will be extremely thankful for your help!

Learning Outcomes

After watching this video, you should be able to:

  • Explain what a peer review is
  • Describe how to read through the different sections of your peer’s essay
  • Understand how to analyze the overall essay