Writing Formal Critiques, Weeks 6 and 12 Organization & Content Group your comments into the following categories of description, evaluation, and suggestions, in that order. Description Summarize the paper; paraphrase or quote the research question, or if you do not see one, speculate as to what it might be; identify the organizational pattern of the paper, its tone, its stance toward sources, its purpose; identify whether it is a research essay or a different genre, or if you can’t yet tell; etc. Evaluation (you could divide this into paragraphs of criticism and praise) Use the unit goals & requirements (below) to determine how well the essay meets the grading criteria (grading criteria will generally include demonstration that the writer has met the course outcomes, followed the assignment and met the requirements, researched the topic thoroughly, used sources well, and demonstrated strong general writing skills). Provide evidence for your claims. For example, if one requirement states that the paper be suitable for an unspecialized audience and you say it is not, list some reasons why you have come to that conclusion. Quote especially interesting or especially troublesome phrases to show the writer’s general writing skills or the writer’s skill at working with sources. Identify any patterns of error you see. If there are other criteria that are important to you but are not listed on the assignment handout, briefly define them and evaluate the essay or paper using them as well (e.g. “To me, a research essay should _______. This one does/does not because _______”). Suggestions Make sure to suggest actions that will help the writer resolve the most important problems you identified in your evaluation, and make sure that the suggestions you give are consistent with the purpose you’ve identified. Direct the writer toward writing strategies you used, helpful sources, catalogues, or indexes; suggest other organizational approaches or ways of including sources; etc. That last “etcetera” is an especially big one; suggestions can take many forms. Please use this space for important suggestions; use the print copy of the essay for minor proofreading marks. Other Guidelines Tone, Voice, & Point of View Do not write critiques as letters to the writer using the second-person point of view (“you”); instead, use first or third person or some combination. Third, using the author’s last name, would be a bit more formal, while first would emphasize the subjective nature of your comments. I encourage you to spend some time thinking about how you want to sound as well as the attitude you want to take toward the paper. If you try to sound as competent as possible, using accurate writing terms and showing awareness of all the concepts from this and earlier writing classes, you will give greater credibility to your evaluation and suggestions. If you use some humility in your critique (e.g. admitting that you are not sure of the focus or that you see several possible
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