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When we write, we often make mistakes or omissions that we cannot find when we read over a draft because our brain understands what we meant to say and makes the correction in our heads, not on the page. As a result, editing purely on our own often leaves papers full of mistakes or obvious holes--holes that weaken the overall persuasiveness of our argument. One way to help catch such mistakes is to have someone else read over a text and point out what works and what needs further revision, a tactic most academics and professional writers use by having colleagues or editors review drafts before publication. You can do the same with your classmates, which is why peer review will be a significant activity in this course.

Peer review accomplishes two goals: it helps the writer to see strengths and potential problems in their drafts, and it helps the reader to learn how to spot problem areas in a text, which can help improve self-editing and revision. Take this activity seriously and do the best you can, even if you are not very confident in your own writing ability: it's better to make an observation or ask a question and have the author ignore you than to remain silent. You'll be doing your partner a favor because it is far better for you to say something now than to have me downgrade the paper later.

Peer review requires several skills:

  • The willingness to write reactions in the margins ("Ha!" "I don't get it," "smooth transition," "tangent," etc.)
  • The ability to mark mechanical or grammatical errors, problems with content, and particularly effective portions of the paper.
  • The understanding that its possible to point out issues in a paper in a helpful and kind manner, avoiding rudeness, condescension, or spite.
  • The ability to communicate concrete suggestions to the writer both in a final note and orally.

PART I: Reading and Marking the Text

Exchange papers with your partner and do the following:

  • Write "Read by _______" and insert your name.
  • Mark any typos, punctuation errors, confusing passages, random thoughts, or sudden change in topics on the page.
  • For each body paragraph, identify the key point being made and circle the key pieces of evidence.
  • Check quotes for signal phrases, quotation marks, parenthetical citations, and follow-up discussions. If there are not quotes, point this out in the margin.
  • React to especially strong points in the paper so the writer knows what he or she did well.
  • If a counterargument or alternative view of a quote occurs to you, ask a question in the margin to see if the writer has consider it.


Answer the following questions on a separate sheet of paper. Make sure you write "Peer Review Response for _____[author of paper's name] by [your name]" at the top. Please answer in complete sentences and give a substantial response, not the shortest response you can think of.

1. Does the paper follow paper format? What changes, if any, need to be made?

2. What is the title of the paper? Is it boring or is it interesting? Can you suggest another title?

3. Review the introduction: does it get to the point, or are the first couple of lines generic ideas that could be at the start of any paper for this class? Is the thesis clear, or is there only a question that has not been answered in the introduction? Is there a clear plan of development in the introduction? Is there a springboard statement? Is the author and title of the novel introduced?

4. For each body paragraph, indicate the following:

A. Does the author avoid starting the paragraph with a quote?

B. Is the transition from the previous paragraph located at the start of this paragraph (and not the end of the previous paragraph)?

C. Is there a core thesis for the paragraph? If so, what is it? If not, what could it be?

D. Is the evidence set up smoothly and cited? Is it relevant to the point, or has the author misinterpreted it?

E. Is there a concluding thought that doesn't attempt to start the next paragraph?

5. Is the conclusion able to tie together the different ideas and synthesize them into a strong final thought that is a bit more complex than the thesis in the introduction?

6. What three issues should the author focus upon as he or she revises for the conference?



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