Metahistory review instructions

Remember, you are reviewing TWO essays as noted here. You will write about 400–500 words for EACH essay.

Getting started

Before you start reading the essay, review the writing guide, especially the checklist you are already familiar with from the revision assignment.

Put yourself in model reader mode. Read as someone looking to understand the production of history (as distinct from the past). Make note of when the essay you’re reviewing seems to assume too much historical knowledge or background. Note when the essay seems to dwell on something that the model reader would be familiar with.

Keep thinking about the NARRATIVE THREAD. A good text guides you along a carefully constructed path. When you as the reader feel you have lost the path, note where that happens. Try to be more specific than just “I lost the path”. Maybe you don’t understand what a certain paragraph is trying to do, or why it’s in the essay. Maybe a paragraph seems to come out of nowhere and needs to be better connected to the previous paragraph. Maybe there are big jumps in the story that are disorienting.

Writing your review

There are really two separate components to the peer review assignments:

  1. Running commentary. As you read through the essay , comment on where you lose the thread. This will be 70-80% of your comments.
  2. Overall impressions about the essay as a whole. These comments address whether the author addresses the “so what” question adequately, whether the historiographical significance is clear, whether it seems generally cohesive–all issues that it’s hard to address as you’re reading though the essay.

Submitting your review

To submit your review, create a new file with your name like all past reading reflections in this folder. Copy and paste your TWO reviews into that file, following or at least vaguely approximating the model.

You are an expert!

Students have frequently reported feeling awkward providing feedback on an essay that they think is better than theirs. Usually, most essays are are more or less in the same place as far as quality goes so usually this is more of a perception than reality. Regardless, everyone in this class can provide very useful review. The course has prepared you to be the model reader for these essays and report when the author doesn’t seem to be addressing the model reader effectively. More importantly, what’s valuable to the author is getting a report of someone else’s thoughts of reading through the essay. There is always room for improvement!

Remember, you don’t need to solve problems for the author (although it’s nice to relay suggestions that come quickly to mind), just report your experience reading through it.

Be kind, be critical

In your review, please be careful about gruff phrasing, because reading critiques of something you’ve worked really hard on is difficult enough. That said, you main job is to help make the essay better, not to make the author feel good. Hopefully you can do both, but the focus of your comments should be on things to improve.

Follow the golden rule: Give the kind of feedback you want to get!