Peer Review Worksheet

ASTR 112 Revision Workshop Preparation Worksheet
Michael Keezing, Senior Associate,
Amherst College Writing Center
Re-vision Workshop: Preparing to Offer Substantive Feedback
Please complete the following worksheet as homework prior to class next Wednesday, April 8.
You’ll use this worksheet to guide your discussion with your partner during our in-class workshop,
and you’ll also submit this worksheet along with your annotated draft of your partner’s work to
Professor Cowan at the end of class. Expect to spend 45-60 minutes on this.
First, read your partner’s paper once, straight through. Then, as you do a second reading, complete
the items below, making notes on this worksheet and marks and notes on your copy of the paper.
1. What does the writer’s thesis – his or her main idea – seem to be in the paper? Please write your
understanding of the thesis, in your own words, in a short summary statement, here. Note that your
summary of the thesis may look different from your partner’s thesis statement (see following item).
Do you find the thesis sufficiently responsive to the assignment? That is, does the paper offer – as
its main point – a claim about the role of one of the assigned themes (or another that makes sense)
in the development of astronomy? Do you find the argument that the writer offers to support his or
her position convincing? How might your partner’s argument be strengthened? Please make notes
for discussion on your copy.
2. Does the paper offer a thesis statement expressing the writer’s thesis in summary? If so, please
underline it on your copy of the paper. How does this thesis statement compare with your own
understanding of what the writer is trying to argue in your summary above? Could the thesis
statement be sharpened or clarified? Does it go beyond mere form (for instance, “Scientists’ egos
played a role in the development of astronomy”), to convey the substantive point of your partner’s
analysis (for instance, by not only telling us that scientists’ egos played a role, but also summarizing
or indicating what that role was to frame the argument to follow)? How would you improve your
partner’s thesis statement? Please be specific, and mark your suggestions for revision (here and in
response to all of these questions) on your copy of your partner’s paper.
3. Is the paper clearly divided into sections of one or more paragraphs that each perform a distinct
function or serve a purpose in the argument that your partner offers to support the thesis? To show
these major divisions, please draw a line to mark where each section begins. In the margins,
please note, in a phrase, your understanding of the function or purpose of each section. We’re
looking here for more than just a label (such as “intro,” “body,” “reason #1,” etc.); rather, try to
capture in a phrase the role of the section in your partner’s specific argument. Can you see the shape
of the writer’s argument in this “reverse outline”? Be prepared in the discussion to explain to the
writer your best understanding of the structure of his or her argument.
Please mark any sections, or passages within sections, which you think are misplaced, tangential,
disconnected, or otherwise deserving of another look in terms of organization. Does the
arrangement of sections reflect an effective plan for the essay? How might the organization of the
paper be improved?
4. Does the first of the sections function effectively as an introduction, presenting the topic of the
paper (context or background necessary to understanding the thesis statement), as well as a
statement of the thesis? Is the scope of the beginning (the “lead,” in Zinsser) too broad? Too
narrow? Does it point to the specific theme to be explored? Does the intro roadmap the argument,
orienting the reader to the shape of the argument that the writer will offer to support the thesis?
Should it? If so, how could it? Please make relevant notes on your copy of the paper.
5. In each body section (whether it comprises one or more paragraphs), is the support sufficient
and relevant? In sections presenting textual evidence from Koestler, is their enough to successfully
accomplish the purpose of the section? Does all of the textual evidence presented relate to the
interpretive focus? What kinds of textual evidence does the writer offer in each section (for instance,
quotation, paraphrase, or summary)? Is it well-integrated? What development of support, or
additional support, would you suggest in each section, if the support in the current draft seems
insufficient? Please be specific, making notes on your copy.
6. Is each supporting section organized in well-ordered, “tight” paragraph(s)? That is, structurally
speaking, does every paragraph contain
a beginning showing the topic of the paragraph and how it will be discussed (limited,
supporting sentences that are directly relevant, given these parameters (mark any sentences
where this is not the case),
and concluding sentences that relate primarily to the paragraphs they conclude (rather than
the following paragraphs)?
Are there “monster paragraphs” that need to be broken up? Why and how?
How do the paragraph beginnings connect (or fail to connect), whether explicitly or implicitly, to the
thesis? Any suggestions for revision? Is there signposting (language referencing any roadmapping in
the intro) to orient the reader? Are transitions between ideas managed to show the relationship of
ideas effectively? Underline examples of effective signposting and transitions, and make
explicit revision suggestions where you see opportunities for improvement.
7. Finally, put brackets, à la Zinsser, around any words, phrases, clauses, or sentences, you think
might be improved in terms of simplicity (by cutting or simplifying), diction (by revising to be less
fancy or more direct), grammar (by making passive verbs active), usage (by finding the word with the
precise meaning intended), or other elements of style you took from Zinsser (such as replacing
“fancy” Latinate words with more direct, less abstract-sounding options—for example, “use”
instead of “utilize”). Write your suggestions above or in the margins alongside the text you put
brackets around.
Once again, you'll spend a significant portion of the workshop discussing your notes, marks, and
comments with your partner. On behalf of your partner, thank you for your time and hard work on
this assignment!
Key terms I’m using in narrow or non-idiomatic senses (which are often used more loosely)
Thesis: The main idea or point in a piece of writing.
Thesis statement: The summary statement of a thesis often found near or at the end of the
first paragraph of a short essay.
Argument: What a writer offers to support his or her thesis.
Revision: Making changes at the level of ideas and organizations. Typically, this mean adding
or expanding, cutting or compressing, or moving ideas around.
Editing: Making changes at the level of style. Typically, this means changes to individual
sentences, clauses, phrases, and words, to improve grammar, syntax, mechanics, and usage.