Information Sheet # 128

November 14, 2000


[The inspiration for this information came from Jonathan Dresner in the History Department, who sent me a copy of a Writing Self-Assessment Form that students attach to papers being submitted for a class. Jonathan’s form came from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University.  Reprinted below is a condensed version of this form as designed by Julia Dubnoff.  The use of such forms can provide the instructor with several benefits:

• Self-assessment sheets encourage students to reflect on the issues necessary for developing an effectively written academic paper.

• They offer a starting point for conversations with the student about the next revision of a paper.  If the student identifies problem areas that an instructor also sees as troubling, it is much easier to raise these concerns.  On the other hand, if the student’s identification of strengths does not match with an instructor’s perspective, that suggests a different strategy.

In the right column, I have included a sample of other questions that could be included in a self-assessment form.  On the reverse side of this information sheet are examples of two peer-response forms developed for a First-Year Seminar.   –Bob Marrs]

Writing Self-Assessment Form

Please answer the following questions and attach this sheet to your paper.

•  In one sentence, what is the main point you are trying to convey?

•  If you had additional time to work on this paper, would you  want to change it? Explain.                       

• What do you like most about your paper?

• What do you like least?

• Please use the space below to ask one question that you would like me to address. [Design your question to elicit feedback that will help you revise]

Other Possible Questions for a Self-Assessment Form

• Who is the audience for your paper?  (Age?  Education?  Reason for reading your composition?)

• What should your readers already know about the topic?

• How would you describe your “implied speaker”:  friend, reporter, teacher, entertainer, boss, know-it-all, advocate?

• How would you describe the relationship between your implied speaker and the audience for your paper?  Is the identified audience likely to believe or accept what the implied speaker is saying?  How might the implied speaker modify the tone or structure of the text to improve communication?

• What new information do you provide in this paper that readers probably would not have known before reading your paper?  What should the reader learn from your paper?

• Are you trying to persuade the audience to do something?  To think in a different way?  What do you want from the audience?

• Is this piece of writing designed to entertain the audience?  How does it attempt to achieve that goal?

• Are there places in your manuscript where what follows does not clearly connect with what comes before? [If so, identify these places with a “Trans” and write a brief commentary on what you perceive as the reason for the problematic transition.]

• Are there places where you need to elaborate and develop points more fully? [If so, identify these places with “Dev” and indicate what kinds of analysis, commentary, examples, illustrations, or evidence might strengthen each passage.]

• Does the introduction effectively initiate your paper?  What would be lost if the first paragraph were deleted?  Do you have any other ideas for how to begin this paper?

• Does the conclusion effectively resolve issues in the paper and give a sense of closure?  Is anything lost if the last paragraph is deleted?  Any other ideas for how to conclude this paper?

Example of Peer Response Form

[The following peer response form asks students to respond to an essay about an author’s experiences with rivers. The form has been modified many times to fit many assignments, but the basic strategy remains the same: students distribute 3 or 4 copies of a paper among class members, who have five days to complete a peer-response form for each paper.  Student writers, using their peers’ observations, then have one week to revise their papers and submit the following package of materials: the working draft distributed to peer readers, copies of all peer response forms, a new draft of the paper, and a one-page commentary explaining what peer advice was most beneficial in helping to revise the paper and how the new version compares with the old.]

•Identify the passage in the essay that you find most effective in terms of its descriptive details, the place where the writer comes closest to capturing the intended moment.  Explain why you find that passage effective.

• Identify a passage in the essay where descriptive details may be missing, where you sense a gap in the development, where you yearn for more information.  Explain why this passage feels incomplete and suggest some possibilities on what could be added.

• Identify a passage that is particularly insightful and  thought-provoking, giving you new insights.  Explain what you discovered in this passage that would help the author understand why this passage had an impact on you.

• Identify a passage where you suspect that the author has not yet fully explored or analyzed the moment or ideas being presented.  Explain what you see as the possible problem and perhaps suggest some options for how this passage could be revised.

• One task for this essay was to integrate insights from our reading assignments.  Identify one or more places where the author effectively used one of our reading texts to enrich the paper.  Follow that commentary by suggesting one or two other places where it might have been helpful to introduce information or images from our reading assignments.

• How effective was the organization of this essay?  Is something missing?  Do you have any suggestions for reordering any passages?  Has the author chosen the best passage for an opening?  Does the essay’s ending give a sense of resolution and conclusion?

• Underline with a straight line two or more short passages (perhaps one or two sentences) that are particularly effective in terms of phrasing, word choice, and expression.  Place wavy lines under two or more short passages where the author has not yet found the best phrasing or most effective sentence structures.  In the margin beside each wavy line, briefly explain why you find problematic with each  passage.

Other Possible Questions for a Peer Response Form

• Most of the questions listed for self-assessment forms can easily be modified for peer response groups.  For example, instead of asking the writer “Who is the intended audience?” ask class members to identify the readers addressed by a paper.

• Does the content of the paper fulfill the assignment?  Does the paper do what the instructor has asked for?

• Does the paper thoroughly explore its topic?  Are significant counterarguments ignored or not satisfactorily addressed?

• Are there any passages in this paper that contradict or do not fit with other passages?

• Are there any pleasant surprises in this paper, moments in the writing when the author offers an unexpected insight or particularly effective image or phrasing of ideas?

• Are there any passages in the paper where you had difficulty understanding what the author was trying to communicate?

• Have your ideas on the topic been changed by reading this paper?

Peer Response: Trait Analysis of an Essay

[The purpose of this form is to help peers consider the factors influencing how they read a composition; the completed forms may also aid writers hoping to understand what qualities readers discover in their writing–and how different readers may interpret an essay in different ways.  Peer readers express their assessment of each quality on a scale ranging from “1" (very low in this trait) to a “7" (very high in this trait).  Printed below is a small sample of the qualities that could be included in a trait analysis form.]

Abstract (theoretical; minimizes significance of specific instances) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Ambiguous (writing open to multiple interpretations) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Coherent (parts of text hold  together) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Concise (no wasted words)  1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Concrete (writing is tangible, focus on immediate experience) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Detached (sense of distance between   implied author and topic of paper) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Elaborate (writing is complex, full  of detail, ornate) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Formal (writing follows established forms, customs, structures) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Illustrative (many stories, examples, illustrations, anecdotes)   1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Intimate (informal warmth, private, close contact with reader) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Logical (claims based on rational   argument)    1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Metaphoric (use of metaphors, similes, analogies)   1 2 3 4 5 6 7

This website created and maintained by the Coe Writing Center. Copyright 2001.
Email Dr. Bob Marrs with any questions, comments or suggestions.