Supportive communities for feedback & revision

Build community while engaging in constructive peer review & improving your communication skills: Peer review groups offer UVA Engineering graduate students and postdocs a consistent supportive community for exchanging constructive feedback on their work.


PRGs are groups of 4-10 (usually 5-7) graduate students and post docs that meet weekly for 1.5-hour meetings where they offer feedback on one another’s writing, presentations or posters under the facilitation of staff from the Graduate Writing Lab. 

Participants sign up to present their work (1-2 sign ups per meeting). During the meeting, the presenter shares their work on a screen and reads it aloud while other group members provide feedback on specific aspects of the work (clarity, organization, flow, etc.). The presenter can make changes, take notes and engage in discussion to improve their work. All participants benefit from increased exposure to written and spoken field specific academic English and participation in discussion on various aspects of writing, presentations and visuals through feedback.

Group members are expected to participate weekly for at least 1 semester but are encouraged to continue with the group for multiple semesters.

  • Join a Fall PRG


    Fall 2019 PRG applications are now open! Use this form to register for a regular fall PRG (The GRFP PRG uses a different form). We currently have two continuing groups with openings for new members and are open to starting new groups if there is interest.

    Fall PRG Application

Our expected Fall PRGs:

Wednesdays 11:30-1pm |  mixed- Civil, Systems, Electrical, Mechanical*

Thursdays 9:15-10:45am | mostly BME & CHE*

Thursdays 12:30-2pm |  NSF GRFP application prep, all engineering

open to new group formation

*Ongoing PRGs are open to all UVA Engineering graduate students & postdocs regardless of the programs listed above.

  • How it works

    Each peer review group (PRG) meets weekly for 1.5 hours in a conference room setting. Members sign up to present their work for review. Each group conducting 1 to 2 reviews per meeting.

    During the review, the presenter puts their work (writing, presentation, or poster) up on the screen and gives a quick introduction to the work. This typically includes the title, where it is going (which journal, conference, etc.), what stage it is at (outline, rough draft, last looks), and what section will be looked at (introduction, methods). The presenter asks for specific feedback (ex. improving clarity or organization) from the group. Then they present the work to the group (often reading their writing aloud paragraph by paragraph) and the group offers verbal feedback while the presenter asks and answers questions, takes notes and revises with the help of the group. Reviews focus on the presentation of the work (ex. the writing or visuals) and a specific area of feedback (ex. improving flow, clarity or organization) rather than the content (ex. soundness of research method) of the work. A facilitator from the Graduate Writing Lab moderates the meetings.

  • How to join

    Applications to join a PRG are available each semester. Prospective members are encouraged to check the announcements on this page for current applications. Students and postdocs can also form their own groups. If you have a group of 5-10 students who can meet at the same time each week and would like to form a new group, email gradwritinglab@virginia.edu.

  • FAQs

    How do I get my work reviewed?

    Once you have joined a group, you will be given access to your group's calendar. To get your work reviewed, just sign up for a review slot on the calendar. Many groups negotiate the calendar, plan some slots in advance and leave some open for last minute needs. Before your review, you should also fill out the prereview info form (see your introductory email) about your work. On the day of your review, be ready to digitally display your work in your meeting room. For most rooms this means bringing your work on a laptop that can hook up to the presentation screen.

    What do I do on the day of my review?

    Before your review, you should also fill out the prereview info form (see your introductory email) about your work. On the day of your review, be ready to digitally display your work in your meeting room. For most rooms this means bringing your work on a laptop that can hook up to the presentation screen. Be prepared with a 1 to 2 sentence introduction to the work. This should include a working title, explanation of the intended audience (often a specific journal or context), what the plans are for the paper/presentation after the meeting (keep writing/revising, turn in to professor, submit), the stage you are in (outline, rough draft, last looks) and the specific type of feedback you want from the group (clarity, flow, organization, level of detail, etc.). When you get to your review time, display your work on the screen large enough for everyone to see. If you have a document, enable line numbers to make it easy to reference parts of your work. Then introduce your work and explain the type of feedback that would be most helpful for you. Do not be afraid to direct your review. You might be in the earlier stages of the work for instance and not want feedback to consider grammar or small errors because you are still organizing ideas. You can and should say this to your group. Depending on the type of work and the type of feedback, how you present your work may vary. Most students asking for clarity, flow, level of detail or conciseness help will read their paper aloud paragraph by paragraph, pausing between paragraphs to for feedback discussion. During you review, you can make changes to your document, take notes and discuss the work with your group. You may find it helpful to have another group member take back up notes for your. It is common to discuss and work through revisions of particular sentences, but taking notes on larger scale changes such as reordering paragraphs or refocusing sections may also be useful. 

    Does it have to be a paper?

    Nope. You can bring anything for your review if it'd be helpful to get feedback on how it is presented. You can bring rough slides for a presentation to go over the order and content. You can bring slides or a poster to look at the visuals. You can bring figures for a paper to make sure they read clearly on their own. You can bring a range of writing: course assignments, job documents, research plans, dissertation proposals, conference abstracts, conference papers, research articles, letters to reviewers, tables for a revise and resubmit, dissertation and thesis chapters, website copy, a blog version of your article or more. You can also practice your conference presentation, a talk you're giving for a popular audience, or your defense presentation. If it is related to your engineering work and it'd be helpful to get feedback on it, you can probably bring it to your group.

    What shouldn't I bring for review?

    There's probably very little that you couldn't bring for review. For the most part, we try to focus on work that is related to your UVA or engineering work. So things like fan fiction are probably not what we are looking to review in the PRG. The PRG is also probably not the best place to critique the content and approach to your research as we focus more on the writing, presenting and visuals of the document that shares your research with an audience. We also cannot discuss take home exams and some qualifiers/comprehensive exams (ex. SIE, MSE). If you are not sure if you are allowed to seek feedback or discuss a document, be sure to discuss this possibility with your advisor/professor ahead of time.

    Can I just come on days when my work is being reviewed?

    No. A peer review group (PRG) is a community. Members rely on one another for feedback and support. It is expected that members will make the weekly meetings part of their schedule and attend each week. PRGs only work when the group members are involved and committed to attending.

    My work is too messy/unfinished/confusing to bring to review, but I already signed up. Should I cancel?

    Probably not, but maybe. If you do not have anything to show at all or do not think you have anything that could benefit from feedback, you should probably email your group (as much in advance as possible) and see if someone else has work they can bring. If you have work that the group has not seen or a version of the work that the group has not seen but you are just concerned that it is not finished or polished, then you should probably bring it. It is often easier to make changes to something we feel is messy or unfinished or just partly written than to something we feel is done or almost done. Reviews of early stages of work can sometimes be the most helpful. Your group can help you work through the big picture of your work and help you work through your next steps. 

    I submitted an application. Now what?

    After your application has been received, you will be placed in a peer review group or on a wait list. Once you are placed in a group, you will received an email with information inviting you to the group, including the group meeting location. These emails may not go out until after the priority deadline has passed. If you indicated that you cannot attend meetings at the provided times, your application may be kept on file that semester in case a new group that fits your schedule is started. If you have questions concerning your application or placement, you can email gradwritinglab@virginia.edu.

    I cannot make any of the times listed. What can I do?

    The times listed are times that we expect to have PRGs running and have space to hold them. If you cannot make these times, you are encouraged to do 2 things. 1) Fill out an application to register your interest and schedule. Be sure to indicate times that do work for you and use the comments box to be more specific if needed. We can typically add more groups, but will only be able to if we have enough interested members who can meet at the same time. Filling out an application is the best way to show your interest. 2) Identify other potential members who can meet at the same time. Groups can be started because a group of students are able to identify a time and place that works. If you can get a group of at least 5 students who are committed to starting a PRG and can meet at the same time each week, email gradwritinglab@virginia.edu for help starting a new PRG.

    I haven't really done this before. How can I give good feedback?

    The process is new for most people and it takes practice to get used to it and to get better at. The more you participate in a PRG, the more practice you will get. Sometimes it is helpful to think about what makes feedback helpful for you. Being only positive doesn't usefully help improve a paper. However, if you see something good, do point it out. We need to know what is working just as much as we need to know what is not working. Be specific with your feedback, reference specific elements of the document such as sentences or line numbers. You can state your thought process or reaction. Even if you are not a subject matter expect, you can be an expert outside reader. How the information comes across is important. You can be a test of what was conveyed. Focus on what the person asked for. If they asked for organizational help, target your comments towards organization rather than typos. Try to hit the what, why and how. What is the issue you see? Why is it an issue? How might the person go about resolving the issue or improving the document. Being specific with what you see and including specific examples from the text can help connect with concrete steps and put you feedback in context. Explain why this is important. For instance, you might point out that a sentence in the middle of the paragraph seems to be a really important point, but it is getting lost there. By moving it to the end of the paragraph, the idea might be better highlighted. Be specific is your suggestions, offer concrete examples and provide options where possible. 

    My PRG members are just students like me. Can they really help me?

    Yes! Everyone has different strengths, access to different resources, and different experiences. Some of your group members may give great feedback on organization and others may be excellent at understanding and explaining grammar or disciplinary conventions. By involving a group in the review of your work, you are able to draw on a range of perspectives and expertise. You will be able to see how your work reaches different audiences and glean tips and tricks from other writers. You will also be able to learn from other reviews and see how other people construct their work, which will ultimately make you a stronger writer and presenter.

    Can I bring a friend?

    Yes! Most of our PRGs are happy to welcome guests or observers. You should probably run it by your group first. If your friend is attending to be an additional reviewer for your review than this is great. If they want to find out how the groups work, great. If they find they like the group, talk to your facilitator about being added as a regular member. They will probably need to fill out the current application so their contact information is on file.

     

  • Online Resources

    The Graduate Writing Lab has compiled a selection of online resources relevant to the writing and communication needs of UVA Engineering graduate students.

    View Online Resources
  • Get Involved

    The Graduate Writing Lab provides a number of opportunities for faculty, post docs, and graduate students to get involved. Those with research or grant writing experience might considering being on a panel or leading a workshop. Future opportunities may exist for assisting with research projects, text cleaning, text analysis, qualitative coding, resource development, consultant training and more. See our current opportunities including position announcements by following the link below.

    See Current Opportunities