What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

02 December 2010

Rhetoric and the Classmates of Crazy

I love the rhetoric major. I love that essay-writing is a major part of my grade in my rhetoric classes. You know what I don't love? Peer reviews.

Now, I've never really paid much attention to peer reviews, even in middle school, but from time to time I get good information from them. That has generally not been the case this semester, which causes me angst and also a swelled head, as discussed on Tuesday.

For example, before each of our three papers, we've turned in a thesis statement. (The first two had the option in the syllabus of making it a thesis question; the third did not.) Each time, I've taken the thesis statement option. Now, Red Ball has spent the semester trying to convince us to put our statements at the end of the paper and include a question as part of the introduction, so we don't give away the end of the argument at the very beginning.

For the first two papers, we critiqued the theses aloud in class. Every time, some bright spark who turned in thesis questions, rather than a full thesis statement, complained that mine (and others like it) sound like a summary introduction. Every time, Red Ball has had to explain that we aren't looking at introductions; we're looking at thesis statements. For our third paper, we did the critiques on paper instead of doing it orally as a class, so each person got multiple critiques. I got back three comments that suggested that instead of writing a summary introduction, I should "give another method a try, because they really work." I wanted to shriek with frustration. Needless to state, that paper is put away, not to be consulted while writing, because it is useless.

I had better luck with my peer review for my rough draft. Generally speaking, the rhetoric majors in the class tend to give the best critiques, as you might expect, since that's kind of what we're being trained for. And my critique this time was done by another rhetoric major. She pointed out the problems that I was already vaguely aware of in my paper, and gave good suggestions for fixing them. Finally, result.

It happened that she got done with the critique in time to pass it off to another student, who began a second one but didn't finish. (The classmate whose paper I critiqued was not so lucky; I'm verbose and didn't even completely finish going through the entire rubric before class ended.) The second guy, apparently, only got as far as the end of my introduction before he ran out of time, and for the question, "What is the thesis?" he wrote, "I'd guess your thesis is going to be that rhetoric concepts do explain the bad decisions [in Vietnam-- I'm writing a paper over the rhetoric in Robert McNamara's In Retrospect]. You should try to make it more of a mystery." I giggled over this for about 10 minutes, because my thesis is actually that rhetoric does not explain the bad decisions in Vietnam. Guess I managed the "mystery" part, then.

Fortunately, I'm done with peer reviews until next semester. What has your experience been with peer reviews/critiques? Good, bad, ugly, indifferent?


The Golden Eagle said...

That certainly sounds like a frustrating scenario.

Su said...

Yeah, if I didn't complain about it, I'd get bored. ;) Just one of the joys of college!

kar_took said...

It does sound really frustrating, but you seem to hendle it well (i.e ignoring the stuff that isn't constructive). I generally don't like introductions which outline the entire argument, but I've been told to change my writing style to that in the past by tutors and that always gets my back up.

I've never had any formal peer reviews in class, its not something tutors use here, I don't think. Sounds like a really good idea, if used properly.

Su said...

It's a bad style in rhetoric, especially, because if the opposition audience hears your position first thing, then they tend to close down for the rest of your argument.

But I agree; the good reviews are gold. It's the bad ones that make me want to weep with aggravation.