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Peer Review Improves Undergraduate Science Writing Skills

Abstract

Inadequate writing skills are a common problem in science classes. Writing scientific papers require a different skill type than writing prose and often learning the terminology is similar to learning a second language. Research has shown that activities such as group projects and peer review are helpful in addressing this challenge in other contexts. This project will use three sections of upper division physiology university students; one section is the experimental group and the other two are control groups. All students write five lab reports with a partner during the semester, which are used to practice peer review. The class is trained on how to review a paper and a rubric in the form of a feedback worksheet is provided. The class anonymously exchanges papers and review prior to turning them in for grading. The reports with the attached feedback worksheet and additional comments from the instructor are returned to the students and common problems are discussed in class. The students also write three formal manuscripts in teams of four with students from all three sections. The first manuscript grade will be used as the baseline to measure improvement in the scores on the remaining two manuscripts. I hypothesize that the students participating in the peer reviewing influence their manuscript team and receive better outcomes on their grades. The results indicate improvement in the manuscript grades, suggesting that peer review has a positive effect in a scientific laboratory setting.

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