+ Peer Review

Description: A peer-review letter provides feedback to an author’s in-progress (but hopefully nearly completed) work. The job of peer reviewers is (1) to read a text in relation to the values of a particular publication venue, the venue’s audience, and the disciplinary conversations the audience/venue espouses, and (2) to provide constructive feedback to an author based on the text’s effectiveness at reaching those values.


  • to refine your analytical skills using the value-laden criteria for multimodal scholarship that we have discussed in class
  • to practice addressing your analysis to a specific audience (an editor, with a secondary audience of the authors)
  • to understand the peer-review process that your major projects will go through (for assessment by your peers and myself and for potential evaluation by the journals, if submitted)

Note: We will complete this assignment twice. Once early in the semester, as you test out which evaluation criteria you want to use, you will analyze a recently published webtext OR (depending on what I have available and permission to use) an actual in-progress submission to a journal or other venue. The second time will be later in the semester, when you review your classmates’ in-progress webtexts. Thus, there will be two sets of due dates, as I add the second round towards the end of the semester.

Due Dates:

  • Practice version: Wednesday, September 28, uploaded to the DropBox folder called /peer-reviews/.
  • Workshop version: Friday, December 2 (by midnight), emailed as an attachment to everyone in the group whose text you’re reviewing AND copy me (cball@ilstu.edu).
  • Peer-Review Annotations: Wednesday, December 7, uploaded to the DropBox folder called /annotated-peer-reviews/ by the beginning of class.

Instructions: There are four parts to this assignment (for the Workshop version, skip #1), plus the annotation:

  1. Pick a webtext that has been published in one of the journals you’re most interested in. Two rules: (1) The webtext must have been published within the last two years. Why? Because disciplinary conversations can change rapidly in digital writing studies. (If you don’t pick a recent webtext, I’ll ask you to redo your letter with another choice that I approve. So make sure to follow this requirement.) (2) You cannot use a webtext that we’ve read in class or that you’ve discussed in previous assignments for this class — it has to be a new one for you. Why? Because I want to see where you stand in understanding how to transfer your genre and venue and audience analysis skills using the evaluation criteria to *new* situations/texts.
  2. Situate yourself within the venue. If you haven’t already done so, perform a Values Analysis on the venue in which the webtext is (to be) published. You’ll need to read the webtext in relation to those values. Your role here is to function as a reviewer/editorial board member of the publication in which this piece has been published.
  3. Read/review the webtext. With the values from that journal context (venue, audience, disciplinary conversations, etc.) AND the evaluation criteria we discussed in class in mind, read the webtext “generously” (meaning, give yourself some time to figure out how it works, why it works the way it does, and, if there are places in the text where you’re not sure — or don’t like — what an author has done, try to figure out what their reasoning for doing it that way was). Take notes on how and why you react/respond to the piece as you read. You should use the evaluation criteria as touchstones for explaining how/why you read the piece as you did. Does, in other words, the piece meet the values/expectations/criteria? Does it miss anywhere? For all questions such as this, the questions “Why” and “How” will probably need to be addressed in your review letter. From your notes, figure out the main points you want to address in regards to the peer-review criteria, and begin to summarize your thoughts in relation to those criteria.
  4. Write the review letter. Write a 2(ish) page, single-spaced letter (in a word-processing document) that will be given to the authors of the webtext. In this letter, you should discuss how the piece meets (or doesn’t meet) the evaluation criteria we have been using all semester in class (you can use any formation of that criteria you’d like) as well as the values of the journal to which it’s being submitted. The letter should be addressed to me (filling in as the “Editor” of the publication for which you are reviewing). The letter should be more formal than colloquial and should contain feedback for the author that is constructive and offers revision suggestions, if you have any (and you should have *some* revision suggestions). As a peer-reviewer, you are an expert in the field and are qualified to evaluate this piece of multimodal scholarship. Write from that voice/knowledge.

Some basic suggestions for drafting the letter:

  1. the beginning paragraph of the letter often summarizes the submission’s purpose back to the editors/author, to ensure that you understood the piece and evaluated it with the criteria in mind; and
  2. remember that the editor of the publication is your audience but that the editor often sends your letter to the author, so the language should be helpful and respectful.
  3. how you use the criteria in your letter is up to you. Some reviewers address the criteria directly, and others do it implicitly. In any case, make sure that your revision suggestions are clear. HOWEVER: Using the criteria explicitly, as if writing a literary analysis where each paragraph starts by listing and defining one criterion and then points to examples of the text that (don’t) exemplify that criterion is NOT very professional. A peer-review letter shouldn’t look or sound like a literary (or rhetorical) analysis; that is not an appropriate genre for you to uptake/use for this assignment.

Annotation Instructions

For this part of the assignment, I want you to reflect on your peer-review letter written to your classmates by annotating the specific places where you drew on the evaluation criteria you chose when reviewing their piece. Each time you use a criteria (or if you introduced a NEW criteria in your reading), say WHY you thought it was important to address for the particular piece you were reviewing and HOW it got at a specific critique (or good point) you wanted the authors to know about. In essence, this annotation is a meta-reflection of your peer-review letter that will show me that you understand how and why we came up with the sets of criteria we did (from earlier in the semester), how you can apply them to an actual webtext, and will help you think about how you would continue to create new criteria for evaluating different kinds of texts in future writing scenarios (either in or out of class). So, show me what you know 😉

Tip: I’m expecting that you’ll have at least 4-6 annotations of about 3-5 sentences each. You can use Comments in Word, or some other similar program, or insert your comments in ALL CAPS and BOLD within the body of the text.


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