The purpose of peer-editing is to help students learn to be more active readers, to wean students away from constantly seeking approval from some authority, and to help teach students to rely on their editing and comprehension abilities and those of their peers. Peer editing stresses that good writing is not a single product—a one shot deal that is either done well or badly—but a process that allows students to help each other understand, improve, and refine.
Here are steps to follow for good peer editing:
- Read the essay through without writing anything, just to get to know the essay.
- Read the essay a second time, critically. Ask “How would I improve this essay if it were my own?”
- As students think of improvements, they may worry about hurting the writer’s feelings. Writing is an intensely personal activity and sometimes a great deal of ego gets tied up in the end product. But the most important thing is to learn, and to learn we must, to some extent, put ego aside. Therefore, although students should consider people’s feelings, good peer editors will still suggest improvements. To avoid hurt feelings, phrase all of your comments as positive “I” statements. For example, if the introduction is boring, a good peer editor might say, “I think you could improve the introduction by making it more vivid or adding more detail.”
- Using the peer-editing guidelines below, it’s a good idea to quote from the writer’s essay as often as necessary and wherever the sheet asks for it. It is imperative that peer editors give the writer something he or she can take home and use as a revising tool.
- Look over the comments that made on the essay and talk briefly to the writer. Summarize the comments for the writer and ask questions about anything that might be a problem.
- Is the introduction effective, that is, does it make you want to read on? If it is effective, state what makes it effective. If it is not an effective introduction, suggest what the writer might do to improve it. Could the writer use more details or tell a story? Should the writer find a more general connection or start with something more specific?
- What is the thesis statement of this essay? Is it manageable? Is it focused? Is it strong? Does it give direction to the writer? Does it tell the reader what the essay is about?
- Is this essay organized clearly? To make this judgment, carefully read each paragraph and determine what each paragraph is about. Point out any problems and suggest how they might be corrected.
- Does the writer use effective topic sentences to begin each paragraph and develop that topic throughout the paragraph? If yes, give one good example. If not, provide the writer with a good example of the problem and suggest how the problem can be corrected.
- Does the writer need more or better transitions to link the paragraphs? Quote from the essay to show where transitions are effective. And quote from the essay to show where the writer needs to use or change transitions.
- Does the writer clearly follow the thesis of the essay? If not, point out places in the essay where the writer loses focus and suggest what the writer might do to get back on track.
- Does the writer use sufficient details and examples? If so, tell where the writer has used detail effectively, quoting directly from the essay. If not, suggest where the writer could incorporate more details and examples.
- Are there any words, phrases, or sentences that are not clear? If so, give the writer some examples.
- Is the conclusion effective? If so, state why it is effective. Quote to show where the writer has succeeded in closing with a strong restatement of purpose. If not, suggest ways that the writer could improve the conclusion.
- Now that you have read the essay carefully, does the title reflect the writer’s purpose? Does it grab your attention? Could it be improved? How?
- List at least three strengths of this essay. Quote where you can to show the writer exactly where he or she succeeds.
- List at least three things about this essay that could be improved. Quote where you can to show the writer exactly what detracts from the content.
- Do you see any problems with spelling, grammar, or punctuation? (Don’t fix their mistakes. But indicate the problems they need to address. For example, they need to look up the rules for comma use or watch for confusion with “their” and “there.”)
- Provide the writer with your overall impression of his/her essay.