Week Three Guidance Peer Reviewing in a College Level Writing Class

Overview of week

Last week, we worked on planning and outlining the personal essay. This week, after drafting the personal essay, everyone will participate in a peer review. Exchanging constructive feedback in a peer review session, much like a writing workshop, can benefit the writer as he or she considers the feedback for revision and editing. Also, as we continue to work on more formal writing, the APA journal assignment this week will focus on paraphrasing sources. Remember that the APA journal is designed for practice in academic writing, which is different from personal or reflective writing. Finally, the weekly grammar quiz helps students as they work to improve grammar and mechanics skills.


“When each workshop member is at the same time dealing with the same technique, and is focusing as well on the same assigned subject matter, each writer quickly becomes interested in, and learns from, the work of other members.” Mary Oliver

Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Mary Oliver, is one of the most popular and honored writers in America. Her words show us that she, too, benefits from participating in a workshop, or as we call it in this class, peer review. The first step, of course, after posting your own work as instructed, is to become “interested in" the work of other class members. Although each student will be writing on his or her own chosen topic, all are involved in the “assigned subject matter” in that everyone is working toward finding and sharing significant meaning from a personal experience.

Each student is involved in transforming that experience into a personal essay. The subject matter is the content of the essay. In every writing situation, we must not only concern ourselves with content, however, we must pay attention to form. Content and form are essential elements in every writer’s work. In our case, in this class, we begin to study the essay form while telling a personal experience (review Chapter 5 in our e-text for more on essay form). But is that all there is to it? No, not exactly. We want to convey something meaningful about our experience in our own voices.

E. M. Forster, one of the most studied writers on “literary form,” explains the relationship of voice to story (our personal story). He wrote, “The story, besides saying one thing after another [plot], adds something because of its connection with a voice” (2000, p. 40). One critic has said of Forster’s guidance on turning experience into story that he turns the “dull stuff of He-said and She-said into characters, stories, and intimations of truth (Jacques Barzun, Harper’s Magazine). As you write your own story (personal essay) and you review your peers’ essays, it is important to look not only at the subject matter (the voice and truth of the story), but also at the form of the essay. Does the essay have a beginning, middle, and end? Is it guided by a clear statement of purpose?

In peer reviewing, students could follow the direction of writer and writing teacher, Janet Burroway, (2011) and avoid “I like, I don’t like.” Instead, Burroway suggests, focus on what the essay “is like” (p. 11) when peer reviewing, for example:

  •  What is the conflict?
  •  This reminds me of . . .
  •  It’s like . . .
  •  Could this be expanded to . . .?

In completing your assignment, and in peer reviewing your peers’ personal essays, consider content as well as form, that is, structure and organization. Review Chapter Five in our e-text, “Structuring and Developing a Paper.” As Mary Oliver’s words remind us, not only do we learn from our own writing, but we learn from the work of others.


Burroway, J. (2011). Imaginative writing: The elements of craft (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Longman.

Forster, E. M. (2000). Aspects of the novel. London: Penguin Classics.

Oliver, M. (1994). A poetry handbook: A prose guide to understanding and writing poetry.

New York: Harcourt, Inc.

Overview of Assignments:

The assignments this week include a number of required readings (Chapters 6-8 in Essentials of College Writing) and required resources linked on the assignment page. Don’t miss these important assignments!

Discussion 1: Explore Persuasive, Personal, and Expository Writing

The job of any writer is to consider purpose. Is the writing meant to persuade? Is it meant to share a story (such as in our personal writing), or is it meant to share information with the readers. To understand purpose, writers must also understand the differences in the varied types of writing. This discussion forum will explore these concepts. As always, use plenty of specific examples as you respond to the prompts. For this forum, please discuss how point of view, structure, and tone differ in the three different types of essays explained in the textbook readings. Next, explain which of these genres the APA journal entry most closely resembles and why. Finally, ask your peers a question you have about this week’s assigned reading. Of course, more details about all of your assignments are found on the weekly overview page.

Discussion 2: Peer Review

Engage with your peers in a peer review workshop. As part of the writing process, you are expected to reflect upon your work and revise and edit accordingly. It is also useful to establish a community of learners where you help one another edit and proofread each other’s papers. Not only does this help you identify areas of strength and weakness in other’s writing, but you are also able to reflect on your own work and perhaps discover similar mistakes. In this forum, you will participate in an exchange of peer reviews on the draft of the Personal Essay.

Assignment: APA Journal

This week, you will practice paraphrasing a source and citing that source in your APA journal entry. Please be sure to read and review the resources assigned this week that describe how to paraphrase. In addition to paraphrasing, the prompt asks students to address purpose and literary elements (such as narrative and/or descriptive elements, see Chapter 6.3 and 6.4). Be sure you understand the literary elements and rules for paraphrasing and, as usual, submit the assignment in proper APA style.

Assignment: Personal Essay Draft

This writing assignment is extremely important as it is the draft for your final personal essay. Please read the two choices carefully and brainstorm each before selecting ONE of the following options:

1. Describe a person, place, or object that has special meaning in your life; or

2. Describe a particular moment or occurrence in your life that had special meaning to you.

Using the techniques described Chapter 6, sections 3 and 4, of your text and expanding upon the prewriting done in the discussion forum for the past three weeks, your essay should provide specific details about the person, place, object, or event so that readers can visualize the subject and/or feel present in the story. Your description should be specific and appeal to the five senses.

Note: Before writing and submitting this assignment, see the specific instructions for writing, formatting, and submitting on the Assignment Page.


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