On September 6th, the first day of WRD 103, Professor Sumbul had us think about what made us uneasy about English, specifically writing. Without much thought, sharing my writing with others immediately popped into my head. Later, I found out that we would peer review our work weekly. This news made me uneasy to say the least. The anxious feeling increased when I looked around and realized I knew not a single one of the students sitting around me. How was I supposed to share my work with strangers? Would I be judged by my writing before these new faces got to know who I was? I went to a small, all girl high school, where everyone knew each other. I had forgotten the feeling of being in a new classroom, with a new teacher, and new students. Everyone was in the same boat, but still, I felt like I was all alone. I was nervous to share my work with the rest of the class. It was not a good feeling.
Looking back, I cannot believe it has already been ten weeks since that first day, and in retrospect, I know that the uneasy feeling was just what I needed to teach me why sharing writing is so important. I now understand that peer reviewing is the most important component to my writing process, as I critique my own work along with my classmates work in peer reviews, my writing process has strengthened and evolved. Peer reviewing throughout this quarter has helped me become a more attentive reader, expand my outlooks, and strengthen my writing. The only way to grow is to leave your comfort zone and expand your thinking. I have come to understand that writing is an open process that permits writers to use later invention and re-thinking to revise their work, and all of this began with the sharing that took place in each peer review this quarter. Peer reviews took me out of my comfort zone, and not only would my writing process be incomplete without them, but I would lack many of the skills that I now have.
Peer reviewing has made me a better reader because I quickly learned that skimming was not effective. When reviewing a classmate’s paper, I learned that each word and sentence had to be carefully considered, not just read mindlessly. It is up to me to thoughtfully examine every paper, taking into account the placement of words, sentences, and paragraphs. In peer reviews I learned to respond and evaluate texts in multiple genres and media. Becoming a deliberate reader has not only helped me in revising my classmates’ papers, it has also helped my reading outside of English class, as well as my writing. When it is time to edit, I am able to look at each word and each sentence and make sure I am considering everything I need to in order to say and express clearly my thoughts. Peer reviewing has helped me become a better editor for my own papers, which is important because I know in the real world, I will not always have the opportunity to have peer reviewers who can take time to check my work. Having a sharp eye when editing leads to clear, flowing papers. Good readers are good writers.
After reading many, different classmates papers, I have been exposed to various different styles of writing, perspectives, and opinions. Each paper I have read has opened my outlook on has taught me to consider the topic in a different way. This has helped my writing process tremendously as I can look at issues in different ways to express what I want in the most effective way for a particular audience. Expanding my outlook helps make my writing stronger as I broaden my knowledge to interpret and respond to different audiences so I can connect with more people. This extensive knowledge base is a key characteristic in any good writer.
A specific example of how these experiences have applied to my writing was in the rhetorical essay assignment. I choose to write on Bill Clinton’s 2012 Democratic National Convention (DNC) speech. In my group, one student wrote his paper on President Barack Obama’s speech from the 2012 DNC; the other student wrote her paper on Condoleezza Rice’s speech from the 2012 Republican National Convention. Reading and analyzing all three speeches caused me inquire further. To be honest, I do not think I would have ever read Condoleezza Rice’s speech but for the fact that I had to for the peer review. While I was not necessarily surprised to hear the things Condoleezza said and the things my classmate said about the speech, I think it was really important for me to practice reading and analyzing the speech without any bias. My classmate’s paper on Condoleezza Rice reminded me of some of the counterarguments that might be made when people heard Bill Clinton’s speech, so I was able to keep those points in mine when revising and editing my paper. Here I integrated my classmate’s ideas on Rice’s speech with my own ideas on Clinton’s speech to write effectively for my audience.
Both becoming a deliberate reader and opening my outlooks on different topics are aspects of peer review that have helped my writing process evolve. While this may seem obvious, peer review has also helped me by improving my writing skills. Some of these skills I already had, such as structuring my papers. However, there are also writing skills that I have gained from my classmates by reading their word such as their Critical Essays or Rhetorical Analysis’s. I can see techniques a classmate use, and look for ways to apply them to my papers.
For example, a writing strength my classmates often tell me that I have is the structure in my papers. In order to improve on this skill, I often try and help my classmates with the structure and flow of their papers. The first thing I look for in each paper I read is a clear thesis. Once I find the thesis, I look for important components like an introduction paragraph, body paragraphs that support the thesis, and a conclusion that ties directly to the argument being made. Recognizing each of these parts helps to keep my classmates papers structured. Once they see the basic structure, they can be creative and descriptive in their writing.
A skill on which I struggled with was staying specific and on point throughout my entire paper. While I stuck to my thesis throughout my papers and kept structure, there were often times when I drifted from my main argument and became too wordy. After reading many of my classmate’s papers, and seeing how they are direct and to the point, I have been able to learn from them, and have been able to incorporate writing techniques in my papers to make them more direct and on point. This combination of talents and techniques I already have, partnered with the new methods I learn from my classmates, leads to improvement in my writing process which I am certain will continue to evolve and strengthen.
To further strengthen my writing I know there are many techniques that I need to continue to practice and incorporate in my work. On top of staying specific and on point throughout my entire paper, I also plan to continue to work on applying tone, dictation, and a level of formality based on my audience. Both of these aspects will strengthen my writing significantly.
I believe peer review is the most important component to my writing process because power and knowledge starts with sharing with others. One of my favorite quotes says, “Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” My mind has been stretched since my first day in class. With each peer review, I grew a little, and with everything I have learned, I know that I will continue to grow.
While the thought of peer review used to put my stomach in a knot, I have not only overcome that fear, but also grown from what peer reviews have to offer. Peer Reviews do not only help to get a better grade on my paper, but they improve my writing skills, critical thinking, and reading comprehension.