General Guidelines for Peer Reviewing Creative Works


1. Read

Read through the story, poem, or essay once before making any comments on peer sheets or manuscript. For this first reading, you are simply reading as if you were picking up a magazine or short story or poetry collection – in short, a casual reading.


2. Think

Take a few minutes to think about what you have just read.


3. Write

On a separate piece of paper (not on the writer’s manuscript), jot down your preliminary impressions (which you may or may not be sharing with the author), e.g. “I don’t like stories or poems about baseball, so I didn’t like this one” or “I didn’t like the grandmother as a person” or “I just love the religious overtones of the piece.” The idea is to get past “personal biases” and “agendas” and get on with offering the author a fair critique based on craft, not personal tastes on the part of the reviewer.


4. Reread

Read the piece again, this time, as you read, jotting down comments on a separate piece of paper. If you discover that you don’t like the piece no matter how many times you read it, try to figure out why. For example, does the story or poem need technical work, or do you have a personal aversion to style, a character, theme, etc.? If so, let the writer know about your biases.


5. Answer Questions

Now look over your notes and answer the questions from the appropriate genre list, for example, Fiction: Peer or Self Reviewing a Short Story


6. Write a Constructive Critique

Write a constructive critique of the piece. At this point, you may jot down notes on the author’s manuscript. Begin your critique by accentuating the positive. When discussing weaknesses, do so in a spirit of professional respect and a willingness to be helpful. Be honest, but write in a thoughtful and considerate manner – the way that you would want your work to be critiqued. And give the author your best shot!


7. Offer the Critique to the Writer.

When you are finished, distribute the critique, peer list, and manuscript to the author.


8. Offer the Writer the Opportunity to Ask Questions.

Offer the writer time to read over your critique, and be prepared for questions and requests for clarification.




A slightly different version of this article appears on the author’s academic website 


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