Exchange drafts with at least one other writer. Before posting your draft to others, write the thesis in your post. This way, reviewers will get traction as they read. As a reviewer, use the following questions to guide your response:
- Point out any words or phrases in the thesis that could be more specific. (See the Thesis section, page 116, for more guidance.)
- Where can the writer do more analysis and reveal more about the subject in the observation? (Point to passages that seem most obvious to you. As you read, look for claims that anyone could immediately offer without intensive analysis. Beside these passages, write “more analysis?” If you can suggest an interesting idea, explain it on the back of the writer’s draft.)
- Help the writer illustrate his or her claims with details. As you read, look for and point out broad characterizations—those that anyone could imagine without a close observation. Ask yourself: Could this be more specific? Can we really see the particular nuances of the subject? Ask for “more details” where the writer could more intensely show the points.
- Offer some figurative language to help characterize the subject. After you have read the entire draft, offer your own metaphor or simile about the subject. Give your suggestion on the back of the draft. Make sure it is something that fits the writer’s voice.
- If the writer uses narrative, does it help support the main idea of the observation? How? (If you have difficulty explaining how it supports the main point, perhaps the writer should rethink its use in the essay!)
- Are the paragraphs coherent? Do you ever get the sense that a paragraph is giving details that seem unrelated to one another or unrelated to the point of the essay? If so, write in the margin “check paragraph coherence.”
- The most focused statement possible often makes for a better introduction. Suggest a surprisingly focused opening statement.
- Consider the writer’s voice. If the writer is present (using “I”), is this necessary? Explain how the presence of the writer helps make the point of the observation. If the writer is invisible (no “I”), how is that beneficial? Where could the writer be more informal (breaking some conventions) or more formal?
- Help the writer avoid common grammatical errors: comma splices, sentence fragments, or pronoun/antecedent agreement. Write down the specific subject of the observation. Then complete the following statement: “Ultimately, this essay is not about [the specific subject: a weasel, for example]. It is about _______________”