GUIDE – Strategies for Using Review Tools for Draft Workshops


(handout created for the August 2010 PWR Mobile Lab Workshop)

This handout describes several ways to use the review tools that come with most word processing software to help students identify specific issues in their classmates’ drafts as well as their own.  The review tools include the highlighter and comment bubbles (but not Word’s “Track Changes,” which I recommend turning off).

For instructions, see the section at the bottom.

Benefits of Using Review Tools for Workshops

  • comments are visible to wider audience (all students plus instructor, or possibly open to web), which encourages greater accountability for offering good feedback
  • instructor, draft writer, and whole class have instant access to comments (no more photocopying handwritten comments)
  • students type much faster than they write by hand
  • gives much more space for comments than writing in the margins
  • encourages more substantive feedback (and less line editing)
  • comment bubbles have a “cute” factor that compels students to use them

General Tips for Getting Better Peer Feedback

Ask students to use highlighter and comment bubble tools to focus on specific areas:

  • use different colors in the highlighter tool to mark thesis, points in preview, topic sentences, quotations, paraphrases, or whatever
  • use comment bubbles to mark and comment on specific elements, such as:  intro, thesis, types of evidence, paragraph structure and focus, use of language, claims that need support, integration of quotations, use of visuals, appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos, and so on.

Sample Peer Review Guidelines

  • Identify the writer’s thesis, select it, and insert a comment bubble.  In the bubble, comment on how effectively the introduction prepares you for the thesis, how easy it was to identify the thesis, and what direction you predict the paper will take in order to support this thesis.
  • Identify a passage that contains a poorly integrated quotation.  Select the passage, insert a comment bubble, and explain what you see as the problem with how the quotation is integrated.
  • Identify a passage that makes powerful use of personal experience as evidence to support a point.  Select the passage, insert a comment bubble, and comment on what you find most effective about the passage.
  • Select the last word of the conclusion, insert a comment bubble, and respond to these questions:  (1) to what extent does the paper stay focused on supporting the thesis?; (2) what aspect of the paper is most likely to be persuasive to the writer’s target audience?; (3)  what did you find most interesting or insightful in the paper?


Ask students to use review tools (highlighter and comment bubbles) to mark their own drafts, in response to specific instructions.

  • Encourages students to reflect on their choices and strategies
  • Helps them make sure they’ve included necessary elements (such as certain types of sources or rhetorical appeals)
  • Helps you see what they were trying to do

Self-Evaluating with the Highlighter

To check structure and coverage of points:

  • highlight each previewed point in your thesis in a different color; then highlight the topic sentence for the corresponding body section in the same color; check to make sure the body sections match the thesis

To check body paragraph structure and development:

  • highlight the topic sentence in yellow, paraphrases in green, quotations in pink, and your own analysis or explanation in blue
  • consider the balance of colors:  too much of one and not enough of another?
  • consider whether everything in the paragraph stays focused on supporting the topic sentence

To check use of sources:

  • highlight each parenthetical citation for the first source on your bibliography in yellow; also highlight the material you took from that source in yellow
  • highlight each parenthetical citation for the second source as well as all material from that source in blue
  • highlight citations and material from third source in green
  • consider the balance of colors:  have you relied too heavily on one source or not enough on another?

To check claims and support:

  • highlight each claim you make in your paper in yellow
  • highlight the support for each claim in blue
  • consider whether any claims lack support or are insufficiently supported

Self-Evaluating With Comment Bubbles

  • Select the last word of your introduction, insert a comment bubble, and comment on which strategy you used to grab the attention of your target audience and how effective you think the strategy is.
  • Use comment bubbles to identify several areas in your paper where you make effective appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos.  Explain your strategy for each example.  How are you hoping this appeal will influence your target audience?
  • Use comment bubbles to identify two passages you are particularly proud of, perhaps because the writing is clear, the evidence is strong, the example is well suited to your audience, the paragraph is well organized, or something along those lines.
  • Identify areas of your draft you’re struggling with and would like feedback on. Select each area, insert a comment bubble, and include questions for your peer reviewers and the instructor.

Creating a Reverse Outline

  • Ask students to copy their thesis statements and paste them into a new document.  Then ask them to copy each body paragraph topic sentence and paste it below the thesis.
  • The goal is to create a new document with just the thesis and topic sentences, to check for structure.
  • Ask students to work in groups to discuss these “reverse outlines” and/or display some samples and discuss with the whole class.


For instructions on how use the comment bubbles in Microsoft Word for peer review and self-evaluation, download this handout: Guide to using Word’s Review Tools for Peer Review (PDF)

The handout above applies to the 2007 (Windows) and 2008 (Mac) versions of Word. For more details on the Windows version, download this handout: Word2007-Review-Tools.pdf

For help with the 2010 (Windows) and 2011 (Mac) versions of Word, see: