After over 20 years of teaching college English, the author loves to share tips, teaching plans, and information about the profession.
Why Should Someone Read Your Draft?
After you have written a rough draft, it is always a good idea to have someone else look at and evaluate your paper before you revise it and turn it in. At the same time, there are several things you can do to edit your paper as well. I have my students do a personal evaluation (called a writer's evaluation) of their paper first, then I have them work in small groups to exchange papers and do a peer review. Doing both kinds of reviews will help you write the best possible paper!
Give you feedback.
Help you know what isn't clear.
Allow you to see what other students have done.
Improve your paper.
Self Edit First
For the best help from peer editing, do a self-evaluation on your own essay before you hand it to someone else. By doing a writer's evaluation, you help your reader understand what you need help with, and you also get started in the process of thinking about how you will revise your essay. Below are the instructions I give my students.
On your first draft of your evaluation essay, underline, and label:
- Your thesis or the main point you want to prove (should be one sentence).
- Your topic sentences in each paragraph of the body (usually the first sentence of each paragraph which tells how that paragraph helps you prove your thesis, or the reasons the reader should believe your main point).
- Note: If you can't find a thesis or topic sentences, put a note to yourself and your editors that you need to write them!
On a separate sheet of paper, answer the following questions:
- Who is your audience?
- What do you want your audience to think, do, or feel after they read your essay?
- What do you feel is weakest about your essay and how do you plan to revise it?
- Ask two questions your peer reviewers can answer.
Peer Edit With Several People
I think it helps to have at least 2-3 people read and edit your paper if you can because different people have different writing strengths. If you don't have a group to peer edit with, at least get one person to read your paper. If you don't have a chance to do this in class, use my questions and exercises on your own paper and have a classmate, friend, or family member read and make comments using the questions below.
Focus on Improving the Paper
Sometimes, there isn't enough time for the reader to answer every question. Instead, ask them to focus on the areas you most want help with, or to give you their best advice for improving your paper. Another way to divide up the editing time is to have each editor do every other question.
Edit with a Hard Copy
According to the poll below, a majority of people find peer editing helps most with grammar and spelling errors. Those sorts of errors are easy to mark on a hard copy, but more difficult and time-consuming to explain on a digital copy. So, if possible, you should try to print out your essay so that it is easy for you to see mistakes and for your editor to write comments. However, if you need to exchange papers online, you can use the editing feature (track changes) of your word processing program, or just have the person put comments in a different color font.
Peer Review Worksheet
As you read the paper, go slowly.
- Mark on the paper any errors in grammar, commas, word choice, spelling, or other errors you notice.
- Add any comments on the paper about what you like, such as: "good evidence," " a vivid description," or "interesting analysis."
- Look at the answer to the first question on the writer's evaluation. Do you think the paper makes the audience respond the way the writer intended? How could the writer make the paper clearer?
- Look at the underlined thesis and topic sentences. Do you know how the writer feels about this subject? Are these clear, strongly worded, and interesting? How could they be better? If the paper doesn't have a clear thesis and topic sentences, suggest what they could write for this.
- Where does the paper need more evidence and/or examples? If you have ideas for what the author could add, tell them.
- Does the paper flow logically? Do you see anything missing in the argument?
- Is the paper organized effectively? Does the author organize it so that it goes from least to most important? How and where can this organization improve?
- Is the introduction interesting? Does it catch your attention and make you want to continue reading? How could it be better?
- How is the conclusion? How could the author improve it? Is there something in another part of the paper that could be a better end?
- Do you feel you know enough about this subject to be able to decide if you agree? What needs to be added?
- Look at the writer's revision plan and questions and answer them.
How to Edit
You will get the most out of your reader's advice if you do the following:
- Read your own writer's evaluation again first.
- Re-read your essay and read the comments written by your editors, then read their answers to the peer editing questions.
- Start revising by dealing with big issues first. Using your own analysis and that of your readers, make a list of what you need to do. What is the most important thing to fix?
- Go through the list and make those changes. If you get stuck, then take a short break and come back, or just go on to one of the other changes.
- When you think your paper is as good as you can make it (or when you run out of time!), stop and give yourself a chance to do final proofreading before turning it into your instructor.
- Reminder: reading your paper aloud can be a good way to slow down to catch any grammar errors!
Sample Evaluation Paper Topics
Evaluation essays are like a review. You can evaluate the purpose and effectiveness of any written, illustrated, or performed presentation. Moreover, many of my students like to review products or decisions of sports teams. Ask your instructor if there are any limitations on your topic, but some of the types of things my students have written evaluations about are below:
- Theater Production
- Album or band
- Museum (science, art, history, or novelty museum)
- Event or attraction (such as a theme park, a state fair, a rodeo, or a parade)
- Advertising campaign (such as one against drugs)
- Product (anything that people read reviews about before buying, especially electronics)
- Video Game (one particular game, or a series)
- Clothing Line (from a designer or store line)
- Sports team or player
- Decisions of a sports team
- Buildings (like different types of ballparks, or offices)
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on October 17, 2012:
RavenBiker--I think that you bring up a great point. In fact, I often find myself wanting to use a conjunction to start a sentence because it sounds right to me. Moreover, in novels and conversation we do this all the time. I tell my students that when they are writing in an informal way or are recording a conversation, then having a sentence start with a conjunction is appropriate. However, I don't think it should be done in formal academic writing. Why? Because using "and," "or," and "but" is a bit lazier than trying to think of what you are actually trying to say. When you have to choose another transitional expression, you become more precise. If you want to add, do you mean: additionally, moreover, furthermore, therefore, in other words, or absolutely? Really, this is just the same thing you discussed earlier in your comment on my other Hub on commas. By eliminating the conjunctions as possible first words in your sentence, you make yourself learn to write more effectively. Great comment! Thanks!
RavenBiker from Pittsburgh, PA. on October 16, 2012:
Perhaps it is off subject, I have had professors approve and disapprove of starting sentences with a conjunction. I found that more the writing is creative and less formal, starting with a conjunction is okay by me.
Example though it isn't really a good one:
English is a good major to have because it does teach critical thinking. And you must admit that critical thinking lacks in many workplace situations.
Am I blowing smoke?
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on October 16, 2012:
Thanks so much Dontei--English is a great major which helps you in many different careers. Being able to write, speak, and think clearly is also very rewarding.
Michael on October 16, 2012:
As a student in college that's leaning towards a English major I really enjoyed reading your hub.