WRD 104: Composition & Rhetoric II Rotating Header Image

Peer reviews at different stages of composing & development

From your St. Martin’s Handbook:

Responding to late-stage drafts

Writers of late-stage drafts need help with first and last impressions, sentence construction, word choice, tone, and format. Their next step is proofreading (4l), and your job as a peer reviewer is to call attention to the sorts of problems writers need to solve before submitting their final work. Your comments and markings should identify the overall strengths of the draft as well as one or two weaknesses that the writer can reasonably improve in a short amount of time.

Responding to intermediate-stage drafts

Writers of intermediate-stage drafts need to know where their claims lack sufficient evidence, what ideas confuse readers, and how their approach misses its target audience. They also need to know which parts of their drafts are clear and well written.

Approach commenting on and marking up an intermediate draft with these types of questions in mind:

Topic sentences and transitions. Topic sentences introduce the idea of a paragraph, and transitions move the writing smoothly from one paragraph or section or idea to the next (5b, d, and e). How well does the draft prepare readers for the next set of ideas by explaining how they relate to the overall claim? Look for ideas or details that don’t seem to fit into the overall structure. Is the idea or detail out of place because it is not well integrated into this paragraph? If so, recommend a revision or a new transition. Is it out of place because it doesn’t support the overall claim? If so, recommend deletion.

Supporting details. Well-developed paragraphs and arguments depend on supporting details (5c). Does the writer include an appropriate number and variety of details? Could the paragraph be improved by adding another example, a definition, a comparison or contrast, a cause-effect relationship, an analogy, a solution to a problem, or a personal narrative?

Responding to early-stage drafts

Writers of early-stage drafts need direction and options, not editing that focuses on grammar or punctuation. Your goal as a peer reviewer of an early draft is to help the writer think of ways to expand on the ideas. Pose questions and offer examples that will help the writer think of new ways to approach the topic. Try to help the writer imagine what the final draft might be like.

Approach commenting on and marking up an early draft with three types of questions in mind:

Fit. How does this draft fit the assignment? In what areas might the writer struggle to meet the criteria? How does this draft fit the audience? What else does the writer need to remember about the audience’s expectations and needs?

Potential. What ideas in this draft are worth developing more? What other ideas or details could inform the argument? Are there other viewpoints on this topic that the writer should explore?

Order. Considering only the parts that are worth keeping, what sequence do you recommend? What new sections do you think need to be added?

For our first-draft peer reviews, compose three fully-developed paragraphs:

Paragraph #1: Fit — what are the ways in which the draft is a contextual analysis — or not? Can you identify places where the writer has clearly articulated an issue, tells us who cares about the issue, and what’s at stake? Do you get a sense that the writer’s framework is to put an issue into context so that we can learn,

  • What does it mean?
  • How do people take positions about it?
  • Why do people take positions about it?

Paragraph #2: Potential — has the writer identified any conflicting claims? If not, can you help find some?  What new context(s) can and should the writer consider? 

Paragraph #3: What’s next? Help the writer brainstorm ideas for next week’s draft:

  • Do you see any words, terms, or concepts that might benefit from an OED search? Sometimes a word’s history, etymology, and shifting meanings over time can add substantially to context. Are there places where the writer can narrow or broaden research? Is the writer writing in a compelling, professional, explanatory, or exploratory tone?