Peer Response for
Research Project Part II: The Essay
Because this essay is a more complex assignment, your responses this time are even more crucial than before. Fortunately, you all have considerable experience now with this process and should be able to provide extensive and helpful feedback.
Here are the questions:
1. Does the paper have a strong thesis that uses one or more action verbs (not a form of to be, to have, or to do) and builds to a strong point rather than trailing off? Which sentence is it? Is the paper well-organized and unified around the thesis? By the time you have finished reading the essay, do you think you understand the issues your peer has explored? Do you find the argument persuasive?

2. Effective research is key to this assignment. Do each of the research quotations (or paraphrases) make a distinct point, or do some overlap? How well does your peer use quotations as support for specific arguments? Does the writer comment on them at sufficient length? Look for a consistently high ratio of commentary on a quotation to the quotation itself. This is where your peer should be extending, applying, or rebutting. Can any of the quotations be cut or shortened? As I have warned, the danger in an assignment such as this one is that the essay can begin to resemble a collage, a patchwork pieced together from the thoughts of others, or the writer can begin to seem like an emcee, constantly introducing other people’s thoughts and then stepping aside. Does the author use scholarly sources to make his or her own points, or does the essay sound as if he or she is simply regurgitating what other people have said? Where does he or she need more commentary? Where is the connection between the quotation and the point he or she is making less than perfectly clear? Where do you find a rebuttal (which is required)?


3. How well is the essay organized? Is it closed-form or open-form, and does it follow the rules for that form? Remember than in an open-form essay, the last sentence of the introduction is not the thesis; it must be where your peer states the issue or asks a question that the thesis (which should appear in the conclusion) settles? Is the essay paragraphed properly, with each paragraph focusing on a specific, readily identifiable point, with the paragraphs split in the appropriate places, and with effective transitions creating coherence? If you ever wonder “How did I get here?” or are confused why a particular sentence appears in a particular paragraph, that usually indicates a coherence problem. Does your peer use subheads? If so, are the subheads helpful?

4. Are there any particular technical mistakes — these include grammar, spelling, format, concision, voice, and error list errors — that you find distracting? Focus on clarity; if a sentence is confusing or need to read it several times to make sense of it, that usually is a sign of some kind of problem, whether in the grammar, the syntax, or the word choice. I am not looking for you to identify every technical error, though of course anything you catch will help your peer improve the essay.
5. Is the format of quotations, citations, and the Works Cited or References page correct?

As always, write your responses directly to your peers, not to a third party. Do not respond to each question separately, and do not number your responses. Try to move generally from more substantive issues to more technical ones, rather than proceeding sequentially through the essay. You need not answer every one of these questions. Give your attention where it is needed, and use paragraphing to give your response cohesion. Writing responses as all one paragraph is always a bad sign. Make sure that no more than 1/3 of your response focus on grammatical, stylistic, and formatting problems.

Length and other Requirements

As this essay is a longer assignment, 450 words per response is a reasonable minimum. Bring two copies of each response to class, one copy for your peer and one for me.

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