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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.
  • React to especially strong points in the paper so the writer knows what he or she did well.


Answer the following questions about your partner's essay on the back of the essay. 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 was your partner like before this incident according to the paper? Does he or she give enough information to clearly establish a "before" image? What details work well in this part of the paper? What needs to be added or cut?

3. Do you understand the incident or experience? Restate it in your own words. What works well with the description of the experience? What needs work?

4. If the writer started the effects discussion, explain how the effects were more than just "I was changed forever" or if he or she needs to add more.

Once you have both finished reading, marking, and writing the above response, discuss each paper and go over the recommendations. Then show your comments to Dr. Halbert. Make sure your partner keeps your comments about his or her paper.



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Site published on January 19, 2015