The following is the critique guidelines I gave my students when arranging for a peer-level symposium. The aim was for the students to get together and in a “safe” environment critique. In the Indian context, we need to encourage our students to critique others (usually it’s polite not to say anything). These particular guidelines were given for the first of the symposiums, particularly looking at the outline of student dissertations. I think these guidelines were helpful as a starter.

The goal of this Symposium is to give the presenters opportunities to clarify their thesis-related thinking. Our job, as participants is to aid in this process by asking important questions that may expose weaknesses in thought or reveal new directions to pursue. Primarily, as participants, we hope to encourage the presenter by being positive and constructive in our evaluation.

Symposium Format:

  1. Read the paper thoroughly in advance. Please do read it!
  2. Author will present his/her paper.
  3. The participants can ask for clarification of the paper.
  4. After clarification, the participants will then proceed to critique along the suggested lines (“Things to look out for in the paper” below).
  5. After the critique, the author can then express any difficulties in the thesis-writing process he/she is currently facing.
  6. The participants will then attempt to address the difficulties by providing any positive perspective or guidance.
  7. Finally, we close with prayer for the presenter.

Things to look out for in the paper

After reading this draft, do you get a clear sense of what the author is trying to say?

Is the problem statement clear? Is there a clear academic problem?
Is the thesis statement clear? Does the thesis statement address the problem?
– Does the author look like they understand the methodological issues of their topic?
– Are you convinced by the methodology adopted by the author?
– Looking at the outline, do you think the chapter structures help support the thesis statement adequately?
– Does the outline have too many chapters? Should the author simplify?
Is the outline missing any chapter? Should the author restructure?
– Finally, in terms of format, does the researcher display any explicit language errors?
– A
re the errors in the paper carelessness or language flaws?

Some Suggestions

Always look to encourage the presenter. Be constructive in your comments. However don’t hold back on your critique. By not saying anything, you are not helping the author.

Regarding Spelling and Grammatical errors, perhaps it is more helpful to identify error patterns (like “you usually misspell this word” etc) that the presenter can then look to correct.