Peer critique

Peer critique, a specialized form of critique, is the common practice of writers reviewing and providing constructive criticism of each other's work. Most fiction writers use some form of peer critique as part of their process of writing.

Peer critique in action

In the classroom

Peer critique has long been used as part of the process of teaching writing. In traditional classrooms power and authority can often be teacher-centric,[1] with teachers correcting work to their own vision of ideal writing.[2] Many researchers have found that peer critique offers a complementary style of feedback[3][4][5][6] Whereas teachers' feedback often focuses on general comments and error correction, peers tend to give specific, deep comments on the work before them rather than correcting to an ideal.[7]

In his groundbreaking 1973 book Writing without Teachers, Peter Elbow[8] stated a powerful argument for peer-only writing classes, eliminating the teacher from the process entirely. Many informal writing groups still use Elbow's methods for peer critique.

Peer critique has also been found to be useful to those who provide critiques, helping students to develop analytical and critical thinking abilities and become better able to judge their own writing.[9]

Outside the classroom

Peer writing groups have existed probably as long as writing has. Anne Ruggles Gere has written several useful articles and books about the history of writing groups, and how they have evolved over time from social "clubs" and chautauquas to the many types of groups we have today, including online peer critique sites.[10][11][12]

Methods of peer critique

Face-to-face critiques

The most traditional form of peer critique, both inside and outside the classroom, is face-to-face. In this method, writers gather together in person and discuss each other's work in detail. Face-to-face writing groups (also known as writing circles, writing groups, or workshops) can be a source of great support and encouragement for writers in what is sometimes a lonely endeavor. The greatest challenge for informal groups is keeping a face-to-face critique group together; many fall apart quickly due to lack of commitment, personality conflicts, or hurt feelings.[13]

Online writing classes

In recent years with the advent of the Blackboard Learning System and similar online teaching tools, it has become possible to take writing courses entirely online. In online courses students generally give each other feedback on writing in message-board style posts. Comments are usually brief. Teachers must beware of the "pile-on effect" of students merely echoing what teachers and previous commenters have mentioned; it will be useful for teachers to apply lessons from peer critique websites, which have functioned online for many years.

Online critique sites

Since at least 1985, with the Compuserve Books & Writer's Forum, writers have formed writing spaces online where they can discuss writing, share resources, and critique work. There are many active critique sites now, catering to all levels and genres of writers; the popular website Reddit has a sub-reddit dedicated to writing critique, titled critique my writing., while another popular forum,, is dedicated to writing and online critique. Other peer critique sites include Authonomy and Youwriteon.

Types of critique sites

Online peer critique sites tend to vary by:


  1. Goodfellow, R. (2001). Credit where it is due: Assessing students’ contributions to collaborative online learning. In D. Murphy, R. Walker, & G. Webb (Eds.), Online learning and teaching with technology (73–80). London: Kogan Page.
  2. Gere, A. R., & Stevens, R. (1985). The language of writing groups: How oral response shapes revision. In S. W. Freedman (Ed.). The acquisition of written language: Response and revision (85–105). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
  3. Cho, K., Schunn, C. D., & Charney, D. (2006). Commenting on writing: Typology and perceived helpfulness of comments from novice peer reviewers and subject matter experts. Written Communication, 23, 260–294.
  4. Topping, K., (1988). Peer assessment between students in colleges and universities. Review of Educational Research, 68(3). 249–276.
  5. Topping, K., Smith, E. F., Swanson, I., & Elliot, A. (2000). Formative peer assessment of academic writing between postgraduate students. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 25(2), 149–169.
  6. Saito, H., & Tomoko, F. (2004). Characteristics and user acceptance of peer rating in EFL writing classrooms, Language Teaching Research, 8(1), 31–54.
  7. Caulk, N. (1997). Comparing teacher and student responses to written work. TESOL Quarterly, 28(1), 181–188.
  8. Elbow, P. (1973). Writing without Teachers. New York: Oxford University Press.
  9. Brown, J. (1984). Helping students help themselves: Peer evaluation of writing. Curriculum Review, 23, 47–50.
  10. Gere, A. R. (1987). Writing groups: History, theory and implications. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
  11. Gere, A. R., & Abbot, R. D. (1985). Talking about writing: The language of writing groups. Research in the Teaching of English, 19, 362–379.
  12. Gere, A. R., & Stevens, R. (1985). The language of writing groups: How oral response shapes revision. In S. W. Freedman (Ed.). The acquisition of written language: Response and revision (85–105). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
  13. Elbow, P. (1973). Writing without Teachers. New York: Oxford University Press.
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