ENGLISH 101. ACADEMIC WRITING
Instructions for Lesson 23
Participate in this lesson
and in Lesson 24 by reviewing another student's draft research report.
(Dr. G has published the schedule of reviews.) Please read and follow
the instructions below carefully.
1. The Peer Review Process
In the big leagues of academic writing, peer review is a standard practice. All scholarly journals and all scholarly book publishers have editorial boards comprised of experts who read and evaluate drafts that are submitted for possible publication. Policies differ from publisher to publisher, but writers can expect that their submissions to a scholarly publication will not be published unless and until it passes at least a couple of stages of expert review--a general editor's review and at least one specialist editor's review. Almost always, the review process is a slow and laborious one. Publication often is delayed by a year or more. The time taken for editorial review, as well as for the careful writing and revision processes, explains why current events and recent events are not reflected in most scholarly publications.
The theory of peer review is that it improves the product and assures quality control. The editorial reviewers not only give thumbs up or thumbs down on authors' manuscripts but make constructive suggestions for improvement.
It's in this spirit of constructive criticism that we will emulate peer review in this course by commenting on one another's draft research reports. The idea of this review isn't to congratulate one another on what a fine job we did. Although favorable comments on our writing is nice to receive, the reviewer's role is to help to improve the draft by offering suggestions for revision that are detailed and specific.
2. Instructions for Reviewers
Each student is scheduled to review two papers (see Dr. G's published schedule). Spend at least four hours on each paper. Read your assigned papers carefully, look up at least the major sources that have been cited, and comment on the paper in detail.
Offer specific suggestions for improvement to the author. Refer to chapter and verse: talking in generalities about what you liked or didn't like probably won't be very helpful to a writer who wants to revise and earn the highest possible score on the revision. Use the items from the assignment score sheet and also from the checklist below to make a thorough evaluation of the draft paper. Publish your comments as Dr. has scheduled.
Credit for review: each review is worth up to three course credit points for the reviewer--in other words, six points in total for the two reviews. Reviews will be graded solely on the basis of how thorough and specific they are. (Student reviews have no grade impact on the papers being reviewed.)2. What can possibly go wrong?
Thesis? (Hacker 28a)
There's no clear thesis. The writer's "point" or claim
There's no introduction.
Body? (or parts of the body)
The body does not organize the evidence logically. (Hacker 28b)
There's no conclusion.
Citations? (Hacker 30 - 32)
Citations don't follow MLA (signal phrases, parentheticals,
Language can't be understood or isn't clear.
The draft was not posted on the course web site on schedule.
9.1 The paper is plagiarized or contains plagiarism (Hacker 29).
Reviewing others' writing is one of the best ways to improve our own writing. Learn from others' mistakes--often easier to spot than our own--as well as from their successes. Many times the solutions to writing problems are much simpler than we think, and when we see good piece of writing we recognize: "hey, I can do that!"
We should give the kind of criticism that we would like to receive--specific, clear, accurate advice that could improve the revision. The review process should not involve flattery or animosity. Our criticism of the writing should not depend on whether the writer happens to be a personal friend or foe, a nice person or a jackass.
Receiving criticism constructively also requires a detachment from emotion. Most writers have a tendency to regard their own writing as outstanding or at least satisfactory. To learn that someone else is less enthusiastic can produce a defensive reaction. We must detach from our own writing enough to see it from others' points of view. Student criticism in fact can be wrong sometimes, but a great percentage of it is fair and helpful. On many occasions, student criticism has pointed out issues that Dr. G missed in his review.
Left: Achilles and Ajax play dice while waiting to sail off to the Trojan War where both will die. Athena as war goddess dances between them. Scene based on an ancient Greek vase.
Don't get defensive!