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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, share your written response to the questions below with 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. If you return the peer response to your classmate via email, be sure to "cc" me in your response.

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: Record your name as the "Peer" and your classmate's name as "Author." Your response should be 1½-2 pages or longer.

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, as it should be. Point out specific sentences in the intro that might give away the author's answers to the question before raising it. 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 and set up the argument in neutral fashion? If needed, suggest how the central question might be sharpened or improved.

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

4. Are the author's views 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?

5. Which of the main points in the body of the essay seems weakest (less strong than the others)? Why? What could the author do to improve this point? Make suggestions specific.

6. Evaluate the author's use of quotations supporting each point. Explain why ineffective quotes are ineffective, and if you can, suggest other quotes that might work better to illustrate the author's claims.

7. Evaluate the effectiveness of the conclusion. Does it leave the reader impressed with the culmination of the writer's analysis, or does it just fizzle out? Is the thesis statement clear in the conclusion? Does the thesis reiterate the main points from the body of the essay? Suggest improvements in the thesis.

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

9. 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.

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.