- Spend more time
commenting on drafts than final papers. Your comments are more useful,
your time better spent, when the student has to revise the work.
- Provide substantial
comments on paper proposals, indicating the direction that you think
the paper should go. At this stage, you can help the student focus to
the appropriate scope.
references that you know of; the students are new to the field and
often choose sources randomly. Show them who are the main critics
they should read, and encourage them (early on) to hone in on the
key debates about the issue.
- Try to send them
home with some writing during office hours. They quickly forget what
students are unsure about a paper's direction, I ask them to bring
in parts of the readings that intrigued them. Together, we work at
my computer to come up with a list of questions or observations about
the reading, seeing if we can develop an idea together. The students
then go home with a printed record of our conversation. Alternatively,
students can tape record conferences.
- Resist correcting
student errors on early drafts. In fact, resist writing in student margins,
except to designate sections "1" or "2" and refer
to those sections in your end comments.
"In section 1, you explore the issue of global warning. But
half of the paragraph focuses on human-made influences and half focuses
on naturalistic causes. This would be better as two paragraphs, which
would allow you to deepen your understanding of each influence and
add a discussion of sources."
- Write or type end
comments that reflect upon the ideas as a whole, so the student understands
that the revision requirements is more than adding a comma or changing
a word/sentence structure.
need to re-conceptualize the trajectory of the argument.
- If you are having
trouble determining what the student is trying to say, write a short
outline about what you think they are trying to say, suggesting ways
to focus or develop one of the most interesting ideas.
often say smart things in un-smart ways; you can model how they can
better articulate a promising idea.
- If the student
has a promising thesis but strays from it, write an end comment that
states the intriguing thesis and good supporting points, suggesting
that the student stick with those points.
- If the student
misinterprets the reading, you can counter-argue in the end comment.
- Summarize major
stylistic or grammatical concerns. Students can handle only three. Choose
the three most problematic and summarize the problem, forcing the student
to look up the rule or head to the RLC for assistance.
"You rely upon 'is/are in every sentence. This gives your prose
monotony. You want your reader to be awake! Revise with more interesting
"You overuse semicolons until they lose their effectiveness.
Decide which sentences should be joined with the semicolon and which
are really independent ideas. Revise."
"Your transitions depend upon the word 'also,' which is additive
rather than logical. Consider the relationship between points and
You have an abundance of commas, but instead of helping your reader
navigate your sentence, they confuse and obscure your point. Please
make an appointment with a tutor at the LRC to straighten out your
comma usage, or you will baffle your reader and lack control over
the flow of information!"
- Synthesize major
class problems in a computer file and paste a response to the students
as a whole into your end comments.
can also present these problems in class, without designating any
particular student as author of the problem.
- Ask students to
write a revision plan, just as we write responses to reviewers (only
in the final stages of copy editing so we scrutinize style).
can then check their understanding of what you said, and ensure that
they get started on developing the best ideas and scrapping the fluff.
- Ask students to
turn in drafts with your end comments when they turn in the final product.
You can then quickly assess whether the student made the required changes
and fixed major errors.
- If you said
"reorganize by aspects of the issue rather than by listing
each source," and the student did not do it, no need to read
that section further!
- Be sure to grade drafting and revision processes, as well as peer
review in peer groups.
- Consider having
peers write one-page responses to one another's papers, just as you
are. You can then have the students turn in all reviews with a paper,
and you can check how seriously they took the reviews (and the seriousness
with which the peers wrote them!). Peer
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