What is Peersourcing?

Peersourcing is an innovative and experimental approach to undergraduate scholarship designed to provide students with a more authentic rhetorical situation for their research and writing. This goal is accomplished in two primary ways: first, students write for an authentic public audience and second, students engage in peer review in a way that resembles the practices of professional scholars.

How does peersourcing work?

Writing for an Authentic Public Audience
Students in most typical required composition courses write for the teacher as their primary audience. Students enrolled in specially designated research exposure courses linked to the PIT Journal write not primarily for their instructor but instead write to and for other UNC students. Using the peersourcing submission stream, these students share their work with others to get feedback before going through the editorial review process; and students can read one another's work on this platform as well. When students read, rate, and review other submissions, they serve as a vital member of the audience for other undergraduate scholars drawn from across the campus community. Some of the peersourcing students are enrolled in required composition courses, others simply want to be part of an intellectual community of like-minded peers who see value in exploring and discussing the ideas produced by undergraduate scholars.

<--break->Peersourcing instead of peer review
In most classrooms, peer review consists of students exchanging papers, reading one another's work quickly, and then making a few perfunctory comments. The aim of these comments is typically to prove to the teacher that the peer review exercise has been completed with due diligence more than it is to help the writer improve. Peersourcing seeks to counter this typical scenario by providing readers and writers with socially-oriented tools to facilitate dialogue between readers and writers. Instead of quick and superficial comments, we seek conversational exchanges that show depth of engagement on the part of readers and writers alike. Writers offer their work for others to read. Readers communicate their reactions by rating and reviewing the writing.

Ideally, readers will read, rate, and review a submission by posting a comment. The comment should reinforce the numerical rating explaining the readers' reaction (noting what they feel is working well, pointing out areas that might be confusing or not fully developed, in general helping the writer see the piece through the readers' eyes). The writer will, again ideally, use these comments to see her/his work in a new light then respond to readers by both 1) posting comments in reply and 2) making targeted revisions that respond to the concerns expressed by readers.

This type of exchange is meant to simultaneously foreground the social nature of writing and help student writers make smarter, more informed decisions about their writing by using the insights of their peers to help them understand how others see and experience their work and ideas.

Publishing is a possible outcome
Not all students who participate will be published. Some will simply enjoy the experience of having interested and engaged readers thinking deeply about their words and ideas. For some, this dialogue will guide writers into producing scholarship that is published.

The top rated submissions are filtered into a special queue and highlighted on the peersourcing submission stream. Editors of the People, Ideas, and Things (PIT) Journal track these submissions looking for the best work being produced by the undergraduate scholars who are part of the peersourcing initiative. Editors choose from among the best submissions selecting pieces they believe are interesting and relevant to the UNC community for publication.

Make no mistake, the PIT Journal editors are concerned with quality. But they also consider the interactions between readers and writers on the peersourcing submission stream. In other words, a piece may start out very strong and be highly rated initially. But if the writer shows little concern for the feedback provided by readers, this piece will not be as likely to be published as another submission that may start out with a lower initial score but is strengthened significantly by a writer who pays close attention to the concerns of readers, who responds thoughtfully to the suggestions and recommendations provided by reviewers, and who makes revisions that show clear evidence of strengthening the piece in turn.