Student Peer Review

WR2 | Workshops

Peer Review Work

Reflective Prologue

Take a moment to reflect on your work. Consider the following questions and write answers to them at the conclusion of your essay draft. Please ensure that this reflective work appears in the essay draft you turn in to Canvas as well.

  • What did you learn by writing this draft?
  • What was the most challenging thing about creating this draft?
  • What do you like most about this draft?
  • What is this draft’s greatest weakness or problem?
  • How do you plan to make this draft better?
  • Do you have any specific things you’d like your reviewers to consider or help you with?
  • Do you have any questions?

Step I: Make a basic outline

Exchange essays with a partner. To begin, read your peer’s reflective work at the end of his or her essay. Try to keep these ideas in mind as you read your partner’s work.

Read though the essay completely without making notations or comments. Afterward, construct a brief outline of your partner’s essay by listing the main idea contained in each paragraph. Your focus should be on the paper’s argumentative structure, so concentrate on identifying the essay’s thesis and the supporting claims. Approach each paragraph as if it were a single unit of meaning. What claim does it make? What is its purpose? Try, as best you can, to state the main idea of each paragraph in a single sentence. Take your time and try to do this as accurately as possible.

The radically simplified version of the essay that results from this process may help expose logical weaknesses or problems with organization; at the same time, a simplified outline often inspires new ideas for the revision or expansion of the essay.

  • If more than one claim is detected in a paragraph, it is often a sign that the paragraph lacks focus. Place all the claims you detect from a paragraph in the outline, but flag the paragraphs with multiple claims in a note to the author as they may require revision.

  • If the paragraph does not present an overtly argumentative claim of some sort, try to characterize its purpose in the essay. For example, a paragraph may provide background information to help the audience understand the context of the essay’s argument. Or perhaps the paragraph is an example or illustration of some idea expressed in a previous paragraph.

  • If there is no clear claim or purpose detectable in the paragraph, make a note of this confusion in the outline.

  • It is helpful if you number the paragraphs for ease of reference: P1, P2, and so on.

Example outline

  • P1. Introduction. Thesis: “The US government should immediately remove sanctions on Iran because the policy only hurts the Iranian people, not their leaders.”

  • P2. Background: Explains the historical background between Iran and the US for the audience.

  • P3. Claim 1: The sanctions policy has failed to have the desired effect since the current government is not only in power, but strengthened as a result.

  • P4. Claim 2: The negative effects of the sanctions fall on the citizens of Iran, not their leaders. (Evidence: Emotional description of suffering from lack of embargoed medicines).

  • P5. Claim 2 cont. (Evidence: Emotional description of suffering from lack of food and other basic necessities).

  • P6. Claim 3: Sanctions have caused Iran to move closer to our global competitors, which weakens the United States' position in the region.

  • P7. Claim 3 cont.: Tensions from sanctions have led to increased military spending by Iran, threatening to destabilize the fragile peace with our key allies in the region and enriching competitors Russia and China.

  • P8. Conclusion: Concludes by describing a possible future where the removal of sanctions help put Iran toward a more democratic future.

Step II: Respond

After you’ve outlined the essay’s arguments, try to offer several clear ideas on how the essay could be improved. Assuming most of you are working in Microsoft Word, you may use the comment feature to add your observations to the outline of your colleague’s essay.

You might consider some of the following for guidance or inspiration:

  • How is the introduction? Does it hook you? Are you captured by its allure and drawn irresistibly into the body of the paper? Or is it flat? Boring? Can you offer some suggestions on how to improve it?

  • How is the argument? What are the specific strengths of the argument? Does the argument seem to go wrong at some point? What could be added to make the argument stronger? Or should something be deleted? Is the evidence strong? Are you convinced? Or do you have a specific objection to something that the author should take note of in his/her revision?

  • How are the paragraphs? Do they have descriptive topic sentences that indicate the main point of the paragraph? Is each paragraph focused on a single idea? Or do they lack unity? Brainstorm with your peer to discover ideas for revising the paragraph.

  • How is the sentence-level writing? Are there any fantastic turns of phrase that are really praiseworthy? Are there grammatical errors? Do some sentences not make sense? Note each instance of this on the paper itself. Discuss each of the problem sentences—explain why you think it fails to communicate effectively.

  • Are quotations integrated well? Are there problems with the integration of sources? Do the sentences with quotations make sense? Are they grammatical? Cited properly?

  • Is the paper organized? Is there a logical flow to the essay? Or are there abrupt shifts in ideas or topics that are confusing or hard to follow? Do the paragraphs seem to transition into each other well? Or are there sudden “leaps” between them?

  • Do you have questions? Is there something that you’d like to ask about why the author chose to write something in the way that he or she did? Are there any ambiguities that you need resolved before you can properly understand something in the paper?

  • What about the formal properties of the essay? Does the essay use MLA format incorrectly? Discuss what you think the error might be in your group. Use the handbook to find consensus.

  • What’s the big take-away? What is the single biggest thing that the author should concentrate on in his or her revision?