Because being objective about your own writing is difficult, peer response — the reading (aloud, if possible) and constructive criticism of your draft by a fellow student, a friend, or a colleague — is one of the best aids to revision. Here, closely adapted from G. Scott Cawelti and Jeffrey L. Duncan’s The Inventive Writer (Mayfield, 1993), are some guidelines for critical and constructive reading. The first list will serve for most kinds of writing. The others are specifically for personal, expository, argumentative, or research report writing.
Comprehensive Guidelines for Collaborative Reading
• What is the best aspect of this composition? Be specific — it might be the subject, the organization, the basic points, or the details supporting them.
• Does the composition raise important questions that it does not answer? If so, what are they?
• Does anything damage the writer’s credibility, such as errors of fact or logic, mistakes in grammar or punctuation, misspellings, problems in citing sources?
Mark or list specific errors.
• Suggest improvements. They may be large -such as redefining the subject or reorganizing or small – such as finding better detail or adding some commas.
Readers’ Guidelines for Personal, Exploratory Writing
• What do you understand or care about as a result of reading this essay?
• Do you sense a personal “voice” that is unique and appealing in some way? Point to examples that help you define that voice. Are there any places where the voice seems inappropriate to the subject or too bland?
• What aspects of the subject does this composition clarify for you? What aspects, if any, need further clarification?
• What metaphors or similes are used that help you understand the subject? Do any need further development?
• Were you aware of some overall pattern as you read? If so, was it distracting or helpful? If not, did you wish you had one to follow?
Readers’ Guidelines for Expository, Thesis-Oriented Writing
• Is the thesis obvious? How would you stale it in your own words?
• Is each point supported with enough specific, concrete facts and details? Which details work best? Which points need further support?
• How would you describe the organization? Is it clear? Is it effective?
• Does the documentation (if any) provide all the necessary information—author, source, date?
Readers’ Guidelines for Argumentation
• Is the argument about a valid issue that has at least two sides? If not, can you point out why?
• Does the essay define and refute the opposition’s key points? Can you think of any points that are not addressed?
• Are the facts used effectively?
• Are the sources (if any) credible? Should there be more?
• Does the author seem to have the best interests of all involved at heart?
Readers’ Guidelines for Research Reports
• Are the headings, if any, appropriately placed and clear?
• Is the documentation correct according to the prescribed style?
• Is more supporting material needed – in an appendix, in tables, in references?
• Has the author established a consistent, objective attitude toward the subject?
• Are the sections complete and ordered in a meaningful way?