I’ve mentioned more than once on this blog the importance of getting support from my friends and classmates. There’s one particular type of support that’s been especially critical in the last couple of weeks of the semester: the peer critique.
Some teachers encourage students to offer critiques and reviews of each other’s work; others require it as part of your grade. Regardless of whether it’s required or not, however, it’s an extremely useful process. Just within this past week I’ve given three students peer reviews of their papers, and gotten reviews from them in return. The feedback can be extremely helpful in a variety of ways.
For one thing, it always helps to have a second set of eyes to check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. After spending hours writing a paper, it’s easy to miss some mistakes, no matter how thorough you are. Sometimes it’s possible to read a paragraph three times and still miss the mistake, simply because you’re tired, or because when you’ve read something already your brain skips over a lot of it automatically because it’s already familiar. A fresh set of eyes with a new perspective, however, can often find things you might have missed.
Another helpful point can be if you have questions or concerns about your paper, and you’re not sure what to do about them. This can include questions about whether a certain part of the paper makes sense, whether certain things need to be cut, whether some areas need more detail, and so on.
One of the papers I reviewed this week was fairly long, and the student had remarked that he wasn’t sure if some of the content needed to be trimmed down. After reviewing his paper, I was able to offer suggestions about which sections were the most important, and which ones strayed a bit from his central thesis. Hopefully, the suggestions will help him strengthen his paper (and of course, get a better grade).
I’ve had my own issues at times when a paper or short story wasn’t well developed enough, but I wasn’t sure where to focus my efforts. Feedback from other students often proved helpful for me to figure out which sections needed the most development, or which were the most interesting. Sometimes just finding out a certain part of the paper or story grabbed the reader’s attention can help me know which area is the best to expand. The result is a stronger, more engaging read.
Then there’s the possibility that something in a paper is just plain confusing. With research papers in particular, it can sometimes be hard to express a point clearly and concisely. If something needs to be revised and clarified, it’s much better to find out before the paper is handed in to the professor. That way, it can be fixed ahead of time, and it won’t have a negative impact on your grade.
Students can also get help at the Rowan Writing Center. They offer critiques, reviews, feedback, and support for every kind of writing issue you might have. Also, the people working in the writing center are extremely well experienced with writing and critiquing. I know several students in the Writing Arts major who work there. Their help can be especially useful if you’re, say, a math or science major, and you might be better at the technical and mathematical work than at the writing. Of course, I know plenty of Writing Arts majors who would love some help with their math homework, too!
And now that I’ve gotten the feedback I need on my own papers, it’s time to go revise them and get them ready to hand in. Next week is the last week of classes. I’ve got a lot of work to get done between now and then…