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Peer Response: Paper 1

Two benefits of peer response: 1) you get feedback from a classmate on your paper before submitting it for a grade; 2) examining the strengths and weaknesses of someone else's writing can help you recognize strengths and weaknesses in your own.

How it works: You read your peer's draft critically, then respond with advice on how the paper might be improved.  When you're finished, give the paper and your written response back to the author.  Later, read your classmate's comments on your paper, and if you agree with the suggestions, revise your paper accordingly, addressing the potential problems and weaknesses noted by your peer.  Turn in your classmate's response to your work along with your paper when you turn in the final draft.

Get mean:
While you might comment on the paper's strengths, your primary concern is to focus on its weaknesses, particularly in the areas of structure, format, logic, and overall development of argument.  Be tactful and considerate in your comments, but critical all the same—do it nicely, but "let 'em have it."  Praise and back-patting will not help your peer improve his or her paper.

Important: Write your response on notebook paper, not on this handout.  Indicate your name as the "Peer" and your classmate's name as "Author."  Your response should be approximately 1½-2 pages, at least.

Instructions: Read the entire paper and then answer the following questions in order.  Your comments are not restricted to these questions alone, though: any and all advice you can offer that might help your classmate improve the paper is appropriate.


1. Consider whether the introduction is neutral throughout  Point out specific sentences in the intro that might give away the author's viewpoint. Also consider whether the introduction is adequately developed. If the paragraph seems at all brief or hasty—anything less than half a page—suggest specific, concrete ways of setting up the topic more effectively or in greater depth.  (Avoid saying simply "expand": suggest how the paragraph might be expanded).

2. Evaluate the central question raised at the end of the introduction.  Does it address the assigned topic squarely?  In these respects and in any others, suggest how the intro question might be sharpened or improved.

3. Consider whether the topic sentence in each body paragraph answers the intro question directly.  Suggest improvements in topic sentences.

4. Evaluate the effectiveness of the "opposing views" (note that the opposing views should follow the introduction and be given before the author's own side of the argument).   Consider whether the paper presents opposition viewpoint(s) fairly and fully, and make suggestions for improving the opposing views.  Suggest additional opposing points.

5. Comment on how well the author succeeds in refuting or discounting the opposing views.  That is, does the author explain why the opposing views are not the best answer(s) to the intro question?  Suggest improvements in refutation or concession.

6. Are the author's own primary points elaborated appropriately in separate paragraphs?  If any paragraph makes more than a single major point, where might the author do better to divide the paragraph into separate units?

7a. For papers on Trifles: Are any points, opposing views or the authors', dealing mainly with matters of setting, or details of the time period that don't necessarily impact the play's being out of date? Such as aspects of technology
, techniques of crime scene investigation, etc.? If so, tell your classmate that these aspects of the play cannot make the play as a whole "out of date."

7b. For papers on A Raisin in the Sun: Does the author explain the importance to the play overall of each racial and universal issue discussed? Or does the author simply indicate that specific issues are racial or universal? Remember that the assignment is not to identify different types of issues, but to argue that the play focuses more on one set of issues or the other. Suggest ways the author might emphasize the importance of each issue that is essentially just identified as racial or universal.

8. Evaluate the effectiveness of the conclusion. Does it leave the reader impressed with the culmination of the writer's argument, or does it just fizzle out?  Is the thesis statement clear in the conclusion? Does the thesis actually take a firm stand on the issue, arguing in favor of one side of the question or the other?

9. Is the conclusion adequately developed (i.e. somewhere near half a page in length)? Make specific suggestions for improvement in developing the conclusion further. 

10. Evaluate the author's use of quotations to support major points on both sides of the argument.  Explain why ineffective quotes are ineffective, and if you can, suggest other quotes that might work better to illustrate the author's claims.

11. On the draft itself, identify problems in grammar, diction, punctuation, etc., especially in golden rules, nuggets, "simple stuff," and "quotations" items Q1-5.

Golden Rules
1. Avoid contractions.

2. Never use "you" or "your."

3. Pronouns agree with antecedents—"they," "their," and "them" are most problematic.

4. Avoid using "this," "that," "these," etc. as free-standing pronouns.
5. Avoid sentence fragments.

6. Avoid fused sentences.

7. Avoid comma splices.

8. Parallelism, especially in lists or series.

9. Avoid successions of short, choppy sentences.

10. Avoid overly long, complex sentences.

Nuggets
1. Avoid plot summary.

2. Use the literary present tense.

3. Introduce quotes and incorporate them smoothly so that all references within the quotes are clear.

4. Ellipses are correct in placement, number of "dots," and spacing, and the two sides of the omission fit together grammatically.

5. Punctuation marks next to quote marks are placed correctly: small marks of punctuation inside quote marks, larger marks outside quote marks unless they are an integral part of what's quoted.

6. Avoid ending paragraphs with quotations.

7. Indicate titles correctly with underlining or quotation marks: "small" works take quote marks, "larger" works take underlining.

8. Dashes and hyphens, if used, are typed and spaced correctly.

9. Spelling: especially the names of characters, authors, and titles.
10. Proofreading errors.