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Peer Review before Peer Review: Three Lessons

Peer Review before Peer Review: Three Lessons

Twice in the last few months I have realized the importance of having peers review something I have written BEFORE I send it off or present it. I learned three lessons, all of which are rather obvious.

In the first case, I had two friends review a draft of an essay (it will appear in print, but likely not for a little while), and each of them offered different but equally helpful critiques. They saved me from making a few mistakes that I simply overlooked.

1. It’s easy to become so familiar with your work that you become blind to its weaknesses, so ask for informal peer review before publication/presentation. Two reviewers with different perspectives, even better.

In the second case I learned the same lesson, but this time the hard way. I presented a piece on which I had worked periodically over a number of months. What I had not realized was that over this period I began to write in anticipation of questions that were inconsistent with my method (more on the reason why at a later time). The person that reviewed this piece for me happened to subscribe to a method other than my original one, but the very method which aligned with those ‘anticipated’ questions.

2. Consider the perspective from which your informal reviewer will come at your work.

When presenting this second piece, someone in my audience who primarily works with my stated method quickly picked up on the inconsistency and rightly questioned me concerning it. The embarrassment was slight and the mistake is easily fixed, but it was avoidable. It certainly was NOT my reviewer’s fault; It was my fault.

3. Be sure and evaluate how consistency you have applied your method throughout your writing.

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