For the Instructor
Chapter 10: Joining the Conversation: Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, and You
For the Instructor
At this point in the writing process it is a good idea to once again dedicate a class to an essay draft exchange. Similar to the In-Class Midterm Essay Draft Exchange we detail in our “For the Instructor” section in Chapter 5, we identify a “draft” as the research essay-in-process and while we ask our students to put in a solid effort for this exercise, we remind them that among the many benefits of the In-Class Research Essay Draft Exchange is the receiving and implementing of feedback. It is important to remind students that their essays will undergo several changes before they are ready to submit the final product. In our introductory writing courses, we require each student to come to class with at least two typed double-spaced pages of their essay. We ask that each student provide a complete introductory paragraph and at least three complete body paragraphs. Once again, we ask our students to underline the first storey, italicize the second storey, and bold the third storey of the three-storey thesis.
As we did in the previous draft exchange, we put students in groups of three so each student gives and receives two sets of feedback. If time permits, we also like to have each group meet with the instructor for debriefing and additional feedback before they leave the class. We encourage students to write on each other’s drafts and we also provide them with a feedback sheet with direct questions about various aspects of the draft:
- Can you identify the writer’s thesis? Does the introduction do more than announce the topic? Paraphrase the thesis statement.
- Does the thesis make a claim that is unique to the subject the author is analyzing? Does the author use general language and terminology that could be applied to almost any essay? If applicable, please identify the generalizing terms or phrases and suggest more (subject-)specific alternatives.
- Is the thesis clear? Do you understand exactly t
he sort of reading the author is proposing? Do you have any suggestions to help the author establish his/her thesis?
Paragraph Structure and Coherence
- Does the structure of the essay make sense? Does it flow logically?
- Are there paragraphs that are repetitive? Is so, which ones?
- Are there paragraphs that need to be separated and expanded because there is too much material? Which ones?
- Are there topic sentences that need to be revised or transitions that need to be rewritten? Where? Be sure to share with your partner your editorial suggestions.
The Central Document and Research
Is the central document defined clearly in the introduction?
Does the author analyze a new aspect if the central document in every paragraph? What are these new aspects? Are these aspects supported through primary evidence?
Does the author stray from his/her analysis of the central document? Does s/he fall into the five paragraph essay form of touching on several examples? Are there places where s/he needs to get back on track?
Does the author apply secondary, scholarly sources when analyzing his/her central document? What works? What doesn’t?
As before, we require each student to answer each question as thoroughly as possible, making it clear that simple yes/no answers are not acceptable, and we typically make the In-Class Research Essay Draft Exchange an assignment worth 5% of the term grade. As the topics for the research paper are so varied, this is an excellent learning opportunity or students to distinguish between introducing a topic and analyzing a topic. A student reader unfamiliar with a student writer’s chosen central document is situated ideally to provide some useful feedback on what we have discovered to be one of the most challenging aspects of the first-year research paper. Is the author’s central document clearly defined? Most importantly, is the author’s analysis of the central document clear and constant? Does the author fall into a simple summary of the subject matter? We have found that this peer-to-peer exercise helps students recognize and eliminate those moments where they rely on passive relaying of facts and evidence. Explaining their particular reading to their peers, students simultaneously gain confidence in their arguments and recognize the importance of building their essays around their readings of the subject matter.