Political Theory Paper Exchange

Students are assigned a peer's paper to review.  After being assigned a peer, students write 2 pages of comments using detailed guidelines that walk them through what to look for.

Here are the instructions:

Gov 10: Foundations of Political Theory 

Professor Eric Beerbohm

Paper Exchange Guidelines

The paper exchange has been designed to enhance the quality and clarity of the arguments that you will be making in your papers. Its purpose is to provide you with external assessments that will give you a better idea of which arguments are coming through clearly and which ones need to be improved. It is an opportunity for you to provide careful and considered help to others and to benefit from this in return so that everyone’s work may be enhanced. You should keep this advice in mind both as you are writing your own drafts and also when you are commenting on your partners’ work.


You will soon receive by email a peer’s paper. You should bring your paper exchange comments to class on Thursday, February 23.

Each comment set should be approximately two pages long, and should address the issues listed below. Please honor these deadlines, as any delay will disadvantage your partners by giving them less time to complete their own responsibilities.


The primary goal of providing comments on your partners’ work is to let them know which arguments are coming through clearly and which ideas could use some clarification or further reasoned development. To this end your comments should include the following:

1. Briefly state what you take to be the author’s intended thesis for the research paper. If the essay contains a clear thesis statement, point this out. If it does not, state what you take to be the essay’s thesis and suggest a way to clarify it. The thesis should be set out at the very beginning of the essay not necessarily in the first sentence but definitely in the first paragraph. There is no need for a long-winded introduction. Do you know what your partner is trying to argue from the very start?

2. State what you take to be the subsequent supporting claims and responses to counterarguments. A well-organized argument in support of a moral position should be able to be clearly outlined. Does your partner’s essay lend itself to a clear outline? How would you outline it? The essay and thus your outline should point out the claims made on behalf of the thesis, and then should point out possible counterarguments to these claims and the answers that the author would offer in response. See if you can summarize the essay according to this structure. The clearer the essay is, the clearer your outline will be.

3. Evaluate the reasoning behind the arguments made. What do you think of each of the arguments contained in your outline of the essay? Has the author provided reasons to persuade us of each claim, or do you feel like there are large parts of assertion? Are there gaps or jumps in the progression of the argument as a whole or in the reasons offered in support of particular claims? Which arguments are the strongest and most convincing? Which arguments could be made stronger and how so? Has the author fairly and seriously treated potential objections? Have any important possible objections been left out? Are you satisfied with the author’s response to these potential objections? Are you persuaded of his/her thesis? Why or why not?

It is up to you to change your final draft according to your partners’ comments as you see fit. Your essay is your own work you should carefully consider your partners’ suggestions, but you are under no obligation to change things according to suggestions with which you disagree. Your effort on the comments that you write for your peer's essay will not be reflected in your problem essay grade it will instead contribute to your course participation grade.