By Bhalachandra Sahaj
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I was reviewing recent posts on AcademicHelp, and I’ve noticed that in all of them, there is a recommendation like, “Ask your friend or colleague to take a look at your essay and give you a piece of advice, blah-blah.” Of course, it’s great to be a guy who pokes everyone in the face with their academic papers, but what if it is you who gets asked to review your friend’s essay? Worry not—this post will help you learn to review essays without making people want to kill you.
1. Pay attention to the essay’s topic and thesis statement. Although the entire introductory paragraph is important, you need to figure out what the paper is about, and what is your friend’s opinion (thesis statement) on it. Knowing these two points, you will be able to evaluate the arguments he/she comes up with.
2. Take a look at the main body paragraphs. Usually, the main body consists of three paragraphs, each containing one key point, supporting the thesis statement. In these terms, you must make sure that:
- each main body paragraph has a key argument (fact, statement, etc.); only one such point per paragraph is allowed.
- key points introduced are relevant, meaning that they have a direct relation to the thesis statement, and either support or deny it, depending on the author’s objective.
- the author moves from one paragraph to another smoothly, meaning that the key arguments are not just a bunch of facts collected within one paper, but that one argument logically flows from the previous one.
3. The conclusion should be a brief paraphrase of the thesis statement and the key arguments. The author should not forget to show how his/her findings are related to their audience.
4. Grammar is important. Make sure to highlight all grammatical mistakes your friend has made. Also, you should mark all the typos, punctuation mistakes, and so on.
5. Write a brief summary, sharing your impressions from the essay, your comments on its style and/or content. Be friendly—do not criticize too much. Critique should be presented as friendly advice, or a suggestion, like, “Perhaps in this paragraph you could also…” or “What if you change X to Y,” and so on.
Remember, your task is to help your friend, not to show that they are worthless writers, or something like that. Do your best to help, not to criticize, and everything will be fine.
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