23. Peer Review

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Instructions for Lesson 23

1. 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.

2. When you have received feedback on your research report, begin working on revision, as assigned below on this page.




Module 1

1: Orientation  
2: Goals   

Module 2

  3: Euthyphro  
     4: The Library
 5: The Apology   
    6: Citation   
    7: Crito
    8: Phaedo  
    9: Exam Prep   
10: Plato Exam

Module 3

11: Research Project 
12: Research 101   
13: Books   
14: the Librarian   
15: the Web   
16: conferences  
17: Joy of Research 
18: Reasoning 

Module 4

19: Outlines 
20: Review the Plan:
21: Language 
22: Dr E's Grammar
23: Peer Review  
24: Hit Parade 

Module 5

25: About the Exam
26: Mock Final 
27: Exam Prep
28: Graduation 


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differ from publisher to publisher, but writers can expect that their submissions to a scholarly publication will not be published unless and until it passes at least a couple of stages of expert review--a general editor's review and at least one specialist editor's review.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?
a checklist

Thesis? (Hacker 28a)

1.1 There's no clear thesis. The writer's "point" or claim isn't clear.
1.2 The thesis is clear but obvious or trivial. There's no debatable claim.
1.3 The thesis isn't proved by the paper. (Almost always arguable.)
1.4 The thesis isn't unified; its points are unrelated or scattered.


2.1 There's no introduction.
2.2 The introduction does does not contain a thesis statement.
2.3 The introduction does not contain an essay map or outline for the paper.
2.4 The introduction does not set up a problem or otherwise create interest.

Body? (or parts of the body)

3.1 The body does not organize the evidence logically. (Hacker 28b)
3.2 The evidence presented does not prove thesis statement. 
3.3 The body does not follow the essay map or outline from the introduction.
3.4 The evidence presented does not justify the conclusion.
3.5 Evidence appears to be misinterpreted.
3.6 Important evidence is missing.


4.1 There's no conclusion.
4.2 The conclusion does not summarize or sum up the evidence presented.
4.3 The conclusion over-simplifies or unfairly summarizes the evidence.
4.4 The conclusion requires additional evidence or more proof.
4.5 The conclusion fails to take account of reasonable objections.

Citations? (Hacker 30 - 32)

5.1 Citations don't follow MLA (signal phrases, parentheticals, works cited)
5.2 Cited sources can't be found using these citations
5.3 Sources are misquoted.or summarized unfairly
5.4 Sources are quoted that should have been summarized
5.5 Quotations or summaries are longer than necessary.
5.6 Too much reliance is placed on sources that are not expert sources.
5.7 Research is incomplete.


6.1 Language can't be understood or isn't clear.
6.2 There's too much repetition.
6.3 One or more sentences are wordy or unnecessarily complex (Hacker 1).
6.4 One or more verbs should have been active (Hacker 2).
6.5 One or more sentences should have used parallel construction (Hacker 3).
6.6 Language confusingly shifts tense or point of view (Hacker 5).
6.7 Language contains misplaced or dangling modifiers (Hacker 7).
6.8 Language is vague, dull, clichéd or otherwise uninteresting (Hacker 8).
6.9 Language or tone is inappropriate, slangy or offensive (Hacker 9).


7.1 Spelling errors
7.2 Punctuation errors.
7.3 Grammar errors.
7.4 Word usage errors.


8.1 The draft was not posted on the course web site on schedule.
8.2 The draft does not meet the specification for length.
8.3 The draft does not meet the specification for citations.
8.4 The draft does not meet the specification for MLA form (Hacker 33).


9.1 The paper is plagiarized or contains plagiarism (Hacker 29).

3. Giving and taking criticism

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.  

Assignment (due in Lesson 25):
Revised Research Report
Once you have received feedback from your classmates and from Dr. G's evaluation, rework your research report, and resubmit it for final credit by Lesson 25. 

Revision is expected to be substantive. Making fixes to your grammar and punctuation is necessary, but that's very seldom the end of what needs to be done to perfect the grade. Consult the grading score sheet to determine what your best revision strategy may be. You may need to add new sources. You may need to reorganize your entire paper, replacing large sections of it with new material. For substantial improvement to be made, substantial work generally is required.

Dr. G will be happy to hold an in-person conference with any student who wants to review the draft research paper or to clarify what the revision should include. Just ask for a meeting. Face-to-face communication usually is more effective and efficient than back and forth notes online. In any case, be sure that you have a clear idea of what needs to be done in the revision process. There are a lot of grade points at issue (20 for the final draft).

Left: possessed by the war goddess Athena, Achilles slaughters foes. As critics, we should not see ourselves as warriors doing battle with those we review. Instead, we should take our cue from Athena and be an inspiration to them.  
















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!



gutchess@englishare.net                    Academic writing home page                    Gary Gutchess © 2003