On-Line Resources for Biology

A Group Strategy for Responding to Peer Reviewers' Comments

Note: The specific advice/direction given here is aimed at students in the Bates College Biology core courses that use collaborative writing model.

The Task: Following the Peer Review, your group will get back your anonymous reviewers' critiques of your draft. Their comments will be split between the draft itself, and the Peer Review Form. Although each group member has been assigned a review by name, this is only a bookkeeping measure for the distribution and retrieval of the reviews; all Peer Reviews belong to the whole group. The task now is to examine and integrate all of the reviewers' comments and determine how best to utilize their suggestions to improve your paper.

Identify the Major Aspects to be Revised: Although each group has unique constraints dictated by varying schedules, it is imperative that you first meet as a group to begin the response/revision process. A block of at least two hours is likely needed for most groups. To prepare for this meeting, it would be most efficient for each member to take one of the reviews and identify:

  • The major strengths and weaknesses identified by the reviewer, at the global level, and the suggested ways to improve them;
  • The major problems (1 or 2) of each section of the paper;
  • Missing, or unneeded information; and
  • A brief summary of comments on general writing and format issues.

Global Level Revision Points: The group can then meet, compare notes, and decide on which global revisions need to be done, and which specific revisions at the paragraph level within sections. A common list of global level revision goals should be generated so all members know where the revision is going at this level.

Paragraph Level Revision Points: Once your group has decided on the global revisions, you next should focus on specific revision points pertaining to paragraph level content and organization. Again, this must be done together, as a group, to generate a specific list of content additions or deletions for each section, as well as organizational changes. Key here is that each member know what the others will be doing on their assigned parts of the revision.

Do the Revision**: Armed with the list(s) of key revisions to make, the groups can now effectively and efficiently start revising the paper. For benefit of your instructors who will be evaluating your revision efforts, on each Peer Review draft and form, please indicate:

1. When you have made a change based on a comment/suggestion, let us know by making a check mark on, or adjacent to, the comment on the draft or form; and,

2. When you decide to not make a suggested change, provide a brief note by the comment justifying why you think the change would not be appropriate.

Final Revising and Polishing: While some of the revision work can be done by individuals working alone, the final effort MUST be done a group. Special attention should be paid to:

1. Make sure all the changes were made; make sure the organization and flow work well;

2. Work on the prose to make sure that the paper reads in one unified style and voice; make sure it is grammatically sound; manually check for spelling errors and typos.

3. Double check that all references are cited correctly in the text and are listed in the Literature Cited;

4. Double check basic formating conventions have been met. The How to Write Guide is your friend on this.

Revising After Instructor Evaluation: After your paper has been graded, you will have the opportunity to revise it again based upon your instructor's comments for additional points. You should follow the same strategy as outlined above. In addition to marking all changes made as described above, you should also complete a Revision Response Form which details the major revisions made to your paper.


** In many instances, group members decide to split up the writing of the paper by sections as a means of working efficiently while accommodating different schedules. While not necessarily the optimum approach, it can work so long as ALL members of the group know what is expected in terms of revising the content and organization of each section of the paper.


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