 It’s a brand new genre for many students  It involves multiple revisions over

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Responding to Project Writing
Lorraine Higgins, CCAC
What Makes

Project Writing so Challenging?

 It’s a brand new genre for many students
 It involves multiple revisions over

 a short period of time
 It can involve significant library

research and field work, both of

which also may require new skills

Frustration . . .
Where do I even start. . ?”

Commenting on these drafts is such a chore. It takes hours. How do I possibly keep up?”

Students ignored my comments on the last draft. I see basically the same problems in this new draft.”

Editor’s Stance: Professor “Fix-It”
Comments while reading (line by line)
Writes profuse commentary throughout
Feels compelled to be “thorough,”

marking every error, even in first drafts
Takes overly-directive approach: Crosses

out, re-writes for the student; provides



Unreasonable number and mix of comments

can overwhelm and confuse students

Students lose ownership of and responsibility

for the document
Students may produce a “cleaner” text, but

they don’t learn how write one themselves

It’s incredibly time consuming to edit

Evaluator’s Stance: “Awk” Talk

Detects weaknesses and

(sometimes) strengths
Attaches evaluative labels

Doesn’t provide clear referents or

explanation (where? why? how?)
Expects students to translate

evaluations into revision strategies

Evaluative labels do not always help students revise. They know THAT the text may be weak or strong, but not necessarily WHERE or WHY. They may not know HOW to address the problems you’ve pointed out.

Helpful Reader’s Stance:

Showing Writers How to Meet Readers’ Needs

Comments strategically. What global and local issues do I need the writer to address at this point? What, as a reader, do I need to know?

Avoids evaluative labels; instead, models a reader’s reactions and questions, so students see the effects of their writing.
Indexes comments to specific sections of the text.
Suggests writing strategies and resources as necessary.
Responding to Project Writing:

A Few Pointers
Beforehand, ask yourself: What are the rhetorical moves or global issues I need to stress at this stage of writing (or in this part of the document)? You may even want to put these into a rubric (checklist, feedback sheet) for yourself and for the students. Attend to and prioritize these issues as you comment. Refrain from spending time on less important issues, especially in first drafts.
Avoid line-by-line commenting. Read the entire draft (or section) for the overall gist and organizing logic, THEN go back and comment on the most pressing issues.
Note patterns of error instead of correcting individual errors. If necessary, point out examples, provide explanation, refer to handbook or tutoring services.
Index your comments. Use the comment function or underline, point to relevant text. Have students number paragraphs or lines for easy reference.
Disgnose your reactions. If something is confusing, how so? What parts of the text created the confusion? Explain your reaction or ask a readerly question that will help the writer understand the problem from a reader’s point of view.
Mirror your reading by writing gists in margins.
Persistent and widespread problems indicate that students need more directive help. Spend a few minutes in class or in your meeting naming and discussing an example and applying revision strategies together. Model how to think about and approach the problem.
Global Issues in Writing
Larger rhetorical concerns that often span a paragraph or more of text, e.g., the organizational structure of an argument, the relevance of the content or the style for a particular audience or purpose, clarity and quality of information, etc.
The first half of your text reviews seatbelt laws, but won’t the politicians you’re addressing already know this?
In para.2, you suggest that the relationship was good, but in this section, you present evidence to the contrary. I’m confused.
This point seems central to the whole report, but it’s buried down here. How can you make it more visible?
That’s not my understanding of the budget deficit. How did you arrive at these figures?

Local Issues in Writing
Concerns about sentence level problems, e.g., grammar, spelling, usage, and punctuation.
You use a lot of passive voice in this paper, which makes your sentences long and hard to read (see Sentences 4, 6,10). See active/passive voice in your handbook and try to make these and other sentences in your draft more active for the next draft.

How might you handle local errors in this first draft?
The spread of Hepatitis C could

be the next AIDES epidemic,

it has reached every corner of the

globe and effected over 170

million people. The US has not

been exempt, 3.9 million have

been effected here.

State larger social problem, effects 5 pts

Convince reader of significance of problem

(evidence) 5 pts

State project objectives clearly

5 pts

Explain how objectives connect logically to problem

5 pts

Mechanics 5 pts

TOTAL 25 pts

Criteria Comments/suggestions
Grading Criteria for Problem Statement Draft
(sample rubric)

No—put this sentence at the beginning of the paragraph.

You need a topic sentence. Insert: “The mining industry in the South has a history of conflict with the surrounding communities.”
The company hopes to solve these labor problems and it will meet with us to get the workers feeback.
Writing here is very weak Good!
You need to rework this section AWK !
Helpful Reader
Why are you discussing the price of this equipment? I thought your intention was to explain the design of this particular machine (see goal statement in paragraph 1)?
This illustration is very hip and funny, but remember, you are addressing a group of very conservative evaluators who aren’t quite sure if they can take you seriously yet.
I see two topics in this long para.—township policies and local customs. What is the real focus? Are these connected?
I’m not convinced; you provide no evidence of this failure, and the figures in your background chapter (see par. 4) actually contradict this claim.

You are summarizing this source rather than using it to make a point about the usefulness of solar technology. What might this source suggest about Zamora Township’s use of the equipment?

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