A Guide on Peer Editing an Essay

Creating an essay or paper is a process that involves more than just writing. To do a thorough job, you’ll have to start out by planning and researching the topic of your work. After that, comes the actual writing, which requires you to ensure that the paper is in compliance with the length, writing style, citation, and formatting requirements.

In addition, you are naturally expected to use appropriate words, as well as follow grammar rules and proper conventions of writing (punctuation, spelling, capitalization, etc.). No matter how careful you may be, the reality is that there will inevitably be mistakes made during the writing process. Therefore, proofreading and editing your paper after you’re done writing it allows you to find and correct them.

There may be situations when papers you end up with are so voluminous that it takes way too much time for a single person to edit them. Such situations will necessitate the work of more than one editor to review the writing. And even if the paper is not that voluminous, you may still want to have other people review it. If you would like to save yourself precious time, you can consider hiring an essay editing service to get the editing done. Typically, they have a team of professional editors who specialize in handling tasks like this and making sure that the finished product is up to standard.

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This article will be primarily focusing on text editing done by more than one individual. The practice of having more than one person review and edit a piece of writing is called peer editing. We’ll explore its meaning, advantages, and disadvantages, as well as all intricacies involved in the process.

So what is peer editing? In an academic context, it means the process of reviewing a writer’s work by their colleagues. Those are referred to as peers, and the process itself is known as a peer review. The colleagues in question may be students (if the writer is a student), professors, or postgraduate researchers. The most important point here is that they should be in the same discipline and have a corresponding academic level. Therefore, a group of undergraduate philosophy students looking through the essay of a sociology student (whether undergraduate or higher) cannot be considered a peer review. However, if the philosophy students were to do so among themselves, that would certainly qualify as one.

In fact, for students taking the same course, participating in peer editing can be a great way of enhancing their skills. In such a situation, your teacher or course instructor may decide to have some of your fellow students proofread, review, and comment on your essay.

You may ask yourself, “What is the point of doing this if other students may be biased?” Well, peer editing isn’t without its disadvantages. But before you learn more about them, let’s take a look at its benefits:

  1. It helps if you look at your work from the perspective of your peers.
  2. You get actionable suggestions on what you can improve in your essay.
  3. You receive commendations for the exceptional aspects of your essay.
  4. It helps you develop your own proofreading and writing evaluation skills.

When you have more than one of your fellow student review your paper, you can learn about things you were previously unaware of. Suppose your essay was reviewed by three students, and they all pointed out your frequent omission of commas or capitalization of starting words in a sentence. That would be a strong indication that you need to work on the identified issue. You are not likely to consider all three of them biased against you. However, if one peer editor dwells too much on what others may consider minor errors and avoids giving you recommendations where due, it may be a sign of bias. This will be all the more apparent if the commendable points are also referred to by the rest of the peers.

As is clear from the above example, the main downside to peer editing is the possibility of unfair negative feedback. Getting such peer reviews may discourage a student from writing, which is why being honest and avoiding bias is really important.

Now, let’s take a look at what the process of peer editing involves.

  1. Read the essay for the first time: When reading the essay for the first time, you should understand what it’s all about. This means reading it as if it were your favorite newspaper or blog. Pay attention to what the central idea is and whether the main points are laid out and presented well.
  • Read the essay for the second time: After reading the paper for the first time, you should get an understanding of its content, key ideas, and how they are organized. If you failed to do so for some reason, reading it for the second time should help you fill in the blanks.

While rereading, pay more attention to the points conveyed in each paragraph. Ask yourself: Is there a smooth transition between the paragraphs? Does the writer present sufficient evidence to drive home the points explained? Is the evidence presented relevant to the point made or could it be used to back up another point? Help the writer discover ways in which they could improve their ideas or presentation. Also, identify the good things about the paper, such as powerful examples used, highly effective word choice, the demonstration of strong reasoning, etc.

  • Read the paper for the third time focusing on proofreading: By now, you should know what the writer’s intention and ideas are and how they have been expressed. However, your primary objective here is to focus on misused words, incorrect sentence structure, lack of proper punctuation, capitalization, and other errors. With the availability of digital editing tools, this task can be completed pretty quickly. Be sure to take note of frequently committed mistakes — this should help you identify the weak points the writer can fix. Keep in mind that you should avoid telling the writer what is correct and what isn’t. Instead, try drawing their attention to the most frequent errors and provide them with some friendly suggestions on how they can avoid them.
  • Organize and present your review: Here, you should prepare a note for the writer containing all the suggestions you came up with after completing the three steps above.

When doing peer editing, you should give honest and constructive criticism, as well as recommendations where they are due. The whole point is to help your fellow student improve their writing skills so that they could do the same for you.

Image Credits: Editing from Pixsooz /Shutterstock

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