Part 2: Chapter 10
In addition to revising, you will also want to go back to your paper, one more time, to edit and proofread. The Writers’ Handbook suggests that after you have made some revisions to your draft based on feedback and your recalibration of your purpose for writing, you may now feel your essay is nearly complete. However, you should plan to read through the entire final draft at least one additional time. During this stage of editing and proofreading your entire essay, you should be looking for general consistency and clarity. Also, pay particular attention to parts of the paper you have moved around or changed in other ways to make sure that your new versions still work smoothly.
Although you might think editing and proofreading aren’t necessary since you were fairly careful when you were writing, the truth is that even the brightest people and best writers make mistakes when they write. One of the main reasons that you are likely to make mistakes is that your mind and fingers are not always moving along at the same speed nor are they necessarily in sync. So what ends up on the page isn’t always exactly what you intended. A second reason is that, as you make changes and adjustments, you might not totally match up the original parts and revised parts. Finally, a third key reason for proofreading is because you likely have errors you typically make and proofreading gives you a chance to correct those errors.
Editing and proofreading can work well with a partner. You can offer to be another pair of eyes for peers in exchange for their doing the same for you. Whether you are editing and proofreading your work or the work of a peer, the process is basically the same. Although the rest of this section assumes you are editing and proofreading your work, you can simply shift the personal issues, such as “Am I…” to a viewpoint that will work with a peer, such as “Is she…”
Completing a Peer Review
After working so closely with a piece of writing, writers often need to step back and ask for advice from a more objective reader. The textbook English for Business Success explains that what writers need most is feedback from readers who can respond to both the words on the page and critique whether the writing responds to the assignment; this process is called peer review. The in-class (and sometimes online) peer review process provides writers with the opportunity to share their drafts with someone who can give an honest response about its strengths and weaknesses. Since your peers have participated in the same lectures, discussions, and group work, they can offer the most constructive and focused feedback based on the assignment and the instructor’s expectations.
Peer review can feel scary because you may feel uncomfortable sharing your writing at first, but remember that each writer is working toward the same goal: a final draft that fits the audience and the purpose. You and your peers have all the tools to offer advice since you have been working together, in the classroom, to understand the essay’s topic and genre. Maintaining a positive attitude when providing feedback will put you and your partner at ease. The sample peer review below provides a useful framework for the peer review process.
Questions for Peer Review
- Title of essay:
- Writer’s name:
- Peer reviewer’s name:
- This essay is about…
- Your main points are…
- What I most liked is…
- These three points are your strongest…
- These places are not clear to me…
- Needs improvement because:
- Needs improvement because:
- The one additional change you could make that would improve this essay significantly is…
Using Feedback Objectively
The purpose of peer feedback is to receive constructive criticism of your essay. Your peer reviewer is your first real audience, and you have the opportunity to learn what confuses and delights a reader so that you can improve your work before sharing the final draft with a wider audience (or your intended audience).
Ultimately the changes you make to your essay are up to you since it is not necessary to incorporate every recommendation you receive. However, if you start to observe a pattern in the responses you receive from peer reviewers, you might want to take that feedback into consideration in future assignments. For example, if you read consistent comments about a need for more research, then you may want to consider including more research in future assignments.
Using Feedback from Multiple Sources
You might receive feedback from more than one reader as you share different stages of your revised draft. In this situation, you may receive feedback from readers who do not understand the assignment or who lack your involvement with and enthusiasm for it. These differing opinions most commonly occur when students ask people outside the classroom to review their writing. While the advice from different readers can be great, you should always value the feedback you receive from your classmates because they have participated in the class discussions, are familiar with your instructor’s expectations, and have often completed the same reading assignments as you.
When you receive differing feedback you should evaluate the responses you receive according to two important criteria:
- Determine if the feedback supports the purpose of the assignment.
- Determine if the suggested revisions are appropriate to the audience.
Then, using these standards, accept or reject revision feedback as you work to finalize your paper.
How to Offer Your Peer Advice
Students often worry about the peer review process, especially if they have never been asked to peer review before. The best way to address this fear is to accept that you will be unable to locate every error or weakness. Once you understand that the process is not perfect, it is easier to feel comfortable with your role as the reviewer. Here are a few tips that will help you during the peer review process:
- Begin by reading the assignment instructions. Your instructor will likely have clear goals for the peer review process, and following the instructions will help you provide significant and meaningful revision ideas for your peer.
- Read your peer’s essay from the beginning to the end without adding any comments. This first read allows you to grasp your peer’s intentions and focus.
- Complete a second reading of your peer’s draft and start looking for strengths and weaknesses. Make comments on the margins of your peer’s essay. Later, you can further expand on these comments when you complete the peer review form.
- When you feel stuck, stop and ask yourself “If this was my paper, how would I revise?”
- Set aside time to review the organization of your peer’s essay. Read their thesis statement and make sure their body paragraphs have topic sentences that connect to their thesis statement. If there isn’t a clear connection, consider helping your peer revise their topic sentence so the connection between the thesis and body paragraph is easy to understand.
- Be honest. Your peers want to earn the best grade they can and your advice during peer review will help them achieve this goal. Think of every piece of advice as constructive criticism. Your advice will help them to create a stronger, more focused writing sample.
The peer review process has the potential to help you create a much stronger and more focused essay. Try to be open to the process and give honest and thoughtful critiques.