Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A second pair of eyes, Part 2: Criterion-based reader feedback

By Travis Willmore

Now that we’ve looked at ways to find readers, let’s examine ways to direct readers in order to get the kind of feedback you want. Peter Elbow, in his book Writing with Power, divides feedback styles into criterion-based feedback and reader-based feedback. This post focuses on criterion-based feedback, which asks questions about the quality of the paper’s organization and how well the ideas established in the paper support its thesis and fulfill the needs of the assignment.

Criterion-based feedback assesses how the writing measures up to common writing conventions and the assignment criteria. If you feel your paper needs assistance in these areas, this may be the type of feedback to seek out. Here are some things you can direct your reader to address if you’re looking for criterion-based feedback:

*Is the basic idea of the paper solid?
*Is there a strong, stated thesis?
*Is the thesis supported by evidence and examples?
*Does the evidence build in a logical sequence that relates to the thesis?
*Is the paper fitted to its audience?
*Are the sentences clear and readable?

All these questions give the reader a strong insight into the kind of help you’re looking for, but they aren’t, by any means, an exhaustive list. You can tweak your list of questions based on the demands of specific assignments, or on your specific writing needs. These guidelines help direct them to the most important structural issues facing a paper. You may find your readers responding to issues beyond the scope of the questions you asked, which is fine.

If you’re aiming for criterion-based feedback, one reader with a strong grasp of the criteria relevant to your paper could go a long way toward meeting your needs. Of course, more than one perspective can be beneficial regardless of what type of feedback you’re seeking. Keep in mind that with criterion-based feedback, or any kind of feedback, it can be a ton of help if you have the assignment on hand to show to your reader.

1 comment:

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