A few notes on the peer review process:
First off, if you don't have a partner as yet, please leave a comment on this post; there are likely other folks looking for partners to work with, too. If we wind up with only one person who seems unpaired, I'd appreciate it if a group would expand to three.
Second, as you read your partner's draft, comment by hand in the margins, of course, but you should also type out a coherent general response to the paper overall. A helpful response to your partner's draft will likely include comments on all or most of the following issues. The list below is for your convenience; you needn't address each item one after the other, though you may do so if it makes things easier.
- Identify what appears to be the present draft's thesis or overall point. If you aren't sure exactly what it is, list the most likely possibilities.
- Tell the author whether her thesis is interesting to you or not. Does it add anything substantive to your understanding of the novel(s) in question? If not, you might suggest ways to make the argument more interesting.
- If, on the other hand, the overall thesis seems to you implausible, or unconvincing, or if you can see serious objections to it that the author hasn't addressed, say so, and detail why.
- Describe, in no more than one short paragraph, the overall argument that's advanced in support of the thesis (in other words, how the author goes about constructing her thesis). If this seems impossible, explain why -- try to identify areas you find confusing or unclear.
- Identify two parts of the overall argument that seem comparatively strong, persuasive, or effective.
- Identify two parts of the overall argument that seem comparatively weak, unpersuasive, or ineffective.
- Does the author use any abstract terms or phrases whose precise meanings in the paper aren't clear to you?
- How well do the draft's parts fit together? Is the author doing a good job of moving the reader coherently from one part of the argument to another? If not, try to identify some places where you got disoriented or couldn't figure out quite where in the discussion you were.
- Does the author's use of details and quotations from the primary text(s) and/or secondary sources seem effective? Do some of the quotations seem stuck in merely to satisfy the research requirements of this assignment? Are any quotations unnecessarily long? Are quotations introduced well, woven smoothly into the author's own prose, or do they just seem to hang there awkwardly? Do you know how the author interprets the key ideas of each quote she uses, and how those ideas connect to her argument? Are the quotations correctly punctuated and cited?
- Identify (in the margins of the draft if not in the letter) any basic syntactic, usage, punctuation, spelling, or typographical errors. Since final drafts may be penalized if they contain such egregious errors, you'll be doing your partner a service by catching those errors now.
- As your partner goes forward to revise this draft, give her at least two general suggestions for making the paper better.
Let me know if you have questions...