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, email your response to your classmate and "cc" it to Later, read your classmate's comments on your paper, and if you agree with the suggestions, revise your paper accordingly, addressing the areas noted by your peer.

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—so do it nicely, but "let 'em have it." Praise and back-patting will not help your peer improve his or her paper.

Important: Indicate your name as the "Peer" and your peer's name as "Author." Your response should be approximately 1½-2 pages.

Instructions: Read the entire paper and then answer the following questions in order—number your answers according to the question numbers: 1, 2, 3, etc.  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. When you have answered all questions carefully, email your response to the author of the paper, "cc'ing" it to

1. Evaluate the introduction, looking especially for places that are not neutral, where the author appears to give away his or her viewpoint on the issue. 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. (You should look at the paper assignment prompts to answer this question.) If the introduction does not end in a central question, point this out to the author! Suggest how the central question might be sharpened or improved.

3. Does the topic sentence in each body paragraph answer the central question directly (using the very words from the question in each answer)? Note that topic sentences should be the first in each body paragraph.  Suggest improvements in the topic sentences.

4. Evaluate the author's overall structuring of the paper in persuasive format: the most important things to consider are a) whether the author presents opposing views on the topic (going against the author's ultimate argument), b) whether the opposing views come first in the body of the paper, before the author's own views, and c) after giving the opposing views, does the author succeed in discounting or pointing out what's wrong with or weak about the opposing views. Make concrete suggestions for improving the opposing views and refutation.

5. One by one, in separate paragraphs evaluate the effectiveness of each body paragraph in elaborating either its central point. Number your points ¶2, ¶3, ¶4, etc. Focus especially on how convincingly the points are developed. Be critical and suggest additional examples to help expand any underdeveloped paragraphs, perhaps even quotations from appropriate readings.

6. Which body ¶ do you think is most effective, and why? Which one do you think least effective, and why, precisely?

7. Evaluate the conclusion, considering whether it leaves 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? Is the paragraph adequately developed (i.e. somewhere near half a page in length)? Make specific suggestions for improvements in any areas needed in the conclusion.

8. Evaluate the author's use of quotations: how effective are they? Are there enough to meet assignment requirements? Can you point to other quotes from our readings that might help? Are they introduced (N3) and documented (Q1) correctly?

9. What is the most crucial thing your classmate should work on to improve the paper? Offer concrete suggestions for what he or she should do to revise the essay.

10. While you don't need to "mark" the paper or identify every single local problem you may notice in spelling, grammar, etc., do identify problems in grammar, diction, punctuation, etc. that seem especially persistent or significant, paying special attention to the golden rules, nuggets, "simple stuff," and "quotations" items.

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.  Be sure the antecedent of "it" is clear.

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 or indicated as a title.

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.