When reviewing other write-ups, you should keep in mind these two questions: Do I understand what they are saying, and could I duplicate their procedure using only what they have written here? Be honest, but not brutal. The objective here is to improve everyone's lab reports through constructive criticism, not to shame someone for doing a bad job. Also, try not to get bogged down in technical details, but focus instead on how effectively the authors communicate. Technical details can hinder even the best of papers, but they are easily corrected, whereas obtuse babbling is a real pain to read, regardless of punctuation and spelling.
Step 1 Take a few minutes to read through the other group's write-up and make comments on your own. This should be a quick proof-reading, and not a major overhaul of their write-up. As you read it, write small suggestions on the write-up itself.
Step 2 Take a step back now, and look at how effectively they communicate in their write-up. Can you follow their derivation? Do their explanations make sense? Is the write-up well organized? Does it have a definite direction, or does it wander? Have they flatly copied something from a book they clearly don't understand? Find:
Step 3 Meet with the other members of your group. Each group member should present his/her recommendations for what to keep and what to change, and the group should come to a consensus about how the authors can improve their lab. Write your group's recommendations down on a separate sheet of paper, and put your names at the top of that sheet. You should also consider this as an opportunity to improve your own write-up, as reviewing other write-ups should give you a good idea of your own write-up's strengths and weaknesses.
Step 4,5,6 Rotate papers again, but leave your group's comments with the other group's lab write-up. Your group's write-up should be two groups away from you now. Review the next group's write-up using the same procedure as above, but this time, look at the previous reviewers' comments, and try to focus on things they did not address. Do not obliterate anything the previous group wrote. If you disagree with their comments, say so in your own report, and let the authors decide what to do. Again, write your individual comments directly on the lab write-ups, and the group's comments on a separate sheet of paper. Hand all copies of the write-ups back to their authors along with all comments from both groups.
Step 7 Meet with your group to review the suggestions made by the other groups
and any new ideas you may have. Come to a consensus about how you will change
your lab write-up to accommodate the comments you receive. Finally, revise your
write-up using the suggestions you have been given, and turn it in a week from
today. When you do turn in your final, revised lab write-up, include all copies
and comment sheets from this week's class.
Look at the handout I gave to the students detailing how a good lab report should look.
Look at my thoughts on the critique.
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