Science Fair: Student Peer Review

My students participate in a Writing Workshop and Peer Review Session before their last submission of their introduction.  The purpose of this activity is to actively engage students in supporting each other by giving meaningful feedback.  This activity is meant to model the peer-review process used by professional scientists.

At this point in the class, students have already completed an annotated bibliography that they can now use as the base for their paper.

Instructions for Authors

The purpose of the introduction is to set the stage for the proposed science fair project.  This might include a BRIEF story about how the student became interested in this subject, and might also start with an overview of the context of the student’s study.

The introduction should:

  1. Present with as much clarity as possible, the nature and scope of the problem being investigated.
  2. Orient the reader by briefly reviewing relevant literature

The PURPOSE should be clearly written in this section (ideally, right at the end of the introduction, in the paragraph preceding the statement of the research question).  What do you hope to accomplish or improve as a result of your research?  The reader should have a sense of how your research question developed after reading this section.

Students have several pages of notes already in your annotated bibliography, and it would be appropriate to incorporate those into this section, but be careful to use your own words and are speaking in the third person.  Even if you do not quote, you must give a citation for any ideas presented that are not yours (and the introduction should not be your ideas – it should reflect prior knowledge in your topic).  Students certainly do not need to cover your topic exhaustively, and may include a brief literature review as part of the introduction.

While writing this section, consider: What does the literature on this topic say that is helpful, or guides thinking in this research area? What has been written that influenced this work? What have other researchers already done that can be built on?

Students should end the introduction section with a clear statement of the research question.

Introduction Guidelines

Students are given a checklist with the following guidelines to use when writing their papers.


  • Paper makes sense to the reader.
  • Spelling errors
  • Grammatical errors and run-on sentences
  • Paper is written in third person (except one short paragraph describing “inspiration”)


  • Paragraphs are arranged in a meaningful order
  • Sentences in a paragraph contain related information
  • Title Page
  • Correct header on every page
  • Correct page numbering
  • Correct margins
  • Correct font size and style


  • Paper is correct length (1000+ words)
  • Contains a strong opening paragraph that grabs the reader’s attention
  • Opening paragraph describes the purpose of the project without going into the details of your research (that is for the experimental design section)
  • Opening identifies and describes the scientific concepts relevant to the project
  • Opening explains major points to be covered in your paper
  • Closing summarizes your key points

Fulfilling purpose

  • DOES NOT describe experiment
  • Includes definitions and explanations of key concepts
  • Includes a history of similar experiments or inventions
  • Provides the information needed to lead to the hypothesis/engineering goal (the reader should conclude with the author that the research would add to the current understanding of the issue).

In-Text Citations

  • References to sources are included.
  • Correct APA Format
  • Writer has given credit whenever information is quoted from a source
  • Writer has given credit when paraphrasing someone’s work, writer has given credit for any information that is not common knowledge

References Page (it’s called References, NOT Works Cited)

  • Alphabetical listing
  • Correct APA Format: Indentation & Spacing

Peer Review Checklist

For the Peer Review Writing Workshop, students are required to bring a draft of their introduction, then trade papers and evaluate each others work. To do so, they are given a checklist that mirrors the instructions for authors they used when writing the introduction (listed above). Each student should evaluate at least two papers, and provide feedback based on that guideline.

About a week after the workshop, the final version of the introduction is due to me. I do allow students to revise if their project changes (and I don’t check to see if its the same), but this does allow me as a teacher to pace myself in offering feedback on their writing.  Its far easier to grade their paper in stepwise parts, rather than in one big chunk at the end (when turnaround before the next fair is a hard deadline!)

How do you handle science writing in your classroom?


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