Peer review of writing

History 110-01: The Age of Elizabeth, Fall 2008
Reading Your Classmates’ Papers – Some Advice
Professor S. Ottaway

Some general tips: be respectful and kind, remember that you are trying to give the kind of advice that you would also like to hear.

Goals – Both students should emerge from the discussion of the paper with a clearer sense of the argument and the method of argumentation (the style and the content) used in the paper, and with some concrete ways in which the writing can be made clearer, and the thesis can be proven more effectively.

First – Response-Centered Peer Review

Read each other’s papers without first discussing them.  At the end of the reading, the reader should be able to tell the writer:

  • what is the writer’s main thesis?
  • what is the principal evidence cited to support the thesis?
  • how convincing is the argument overall?

Second – Advice-Centered Peer Review

Readers should make notes on the paper.  What should the reader be looking for?

  • Is the paper’s STRUCTURE effective?
    • Is the introduction concise?  Does it contain a clear thesis?  Does it provide a “roadmap” for the rest of the paper?  (i.e. does it signal what the main arguments of the paper will be?)
    • Can you identify the main point or set of points made in each paragraph?
    • Does the conclusion summarize the main points of the paper, and does it suggest some larger significance or conclusion to be drawn from the essay?
  • Is the CONTENT of the paper adequate to support the main points being asserted?
    • Does the author cite evidence – either quotations or paraphrases, or generalizations derived from the sources at hand?
    • Are the citations done in correct form?  (Preferred form is Chicago Manual of Style - CMS)
    • Think of these three basic principles:
      • Are sources used as concisely as possible, so as not to crowd out the author’s own voice? 
      • Is it clear when the author is speaking and when materials are being used from a source? 
      • Is the way in which each source relates to the argument clear?

Third – (Respond and Advise)

Readers should discuss the paper with the author based on the notes taken. 

  • What are the paper’s areas of strength
    • Can you identify a particularly effective paragraph or sentence in which the author’s points were stated or proven in an exemplary manner?
  • What aspects of the argument were hardest to follow (or swallow)?
  • Does the thesis in the introduction match the conclusions reached by the end of the paper? (Or has the paper “morphed” in the course of its development?)