On workshopping papers  -- Honors 313 section 3 Fall 2017: Science in Science Fiction



How to critique a paper. When you give your comments, I suggest the following structure:

This paper is aboutÉ State what you think the main conclusion of the paper is.

What worked for me wasÉ

What did not work for me wasÉ

In other words, we do not state the paper as good or bad, but focus on how effective or ineffective the paper was.

Emphasis on finding what did and did not work for you. Do not go into elaborate solutions ("you can fix this byÉ") because in most cases the author will find her or his own solution. Pointing out the problem is enough.

Don't focus on whether or not you agree with the author; again, focus on how well the author supported her conclusions through evidence.  Don't make personal attacks (duh). Avoid emotionally charged language.

Your goal is to help your classmate write a better paper by pointing out weaknesses in their paper. Keep that in mind.


How to take a critique. Remember that it's not about you, it's about your paper. This can be hard, I know.

As much as possible, just listen to the comments. Avoid trying to explain or justify or defend your work.  If you have to explain, you probably didn't put the right explanation on the page where it belongs.

After everyone has commented, ask questions primarily for clarification or amplification.  Again, your goal is to improve your paper by hearing about the paper your classmates read, not the paper that is in your head.

Do you have to address every comment and criticism? No.  Some readers read less carefully than other; some do genuinely miss the point.  Now if a comment strikes a chord, then definitely tackle that issue. And if everyone agrees, then take the issue seriously.

You do not have to rewrite it the way anyone suggests.  Listen to the problem, but find your own solution. In the end, the paper is yours.  Use your peers' comments to make the paper stronger. But keep your voice.