“My reader was awesome … she had a real penchant for understanding [this type of] writing which made the entire editing process much easier… Loved it.”
“My reader was always willing to read over my work and give very helpful feedback. It was also great interacting with someone outside of academia, especially for a public policy paper, to see how people in the real world view it.”
“Since [my reader] was working in the pharmaceutical research field he was very in tune with what actual grant proposals looked like and it was very interesting to hear what he had to say about my proposal”
The Reader Project offers participating students an opportunity to get feedback on a course writing project from a Duke alum or staff member who has professional experience relevant to their project. Students often find it difficult to imagine how readers beyond the classroom environment will react to their writing. Our volunteers can help you learn to anticipate the needs and expectations of readers – an essential skill for successful writing no matter what field you pursue. And many of our student participants report that having an expert in the field engage with their work was a great motivator.
THINGS TO KNOW
If your instructor enrolls your course in the Reader Project, you can sign up for the Reader Project and will be matched with a volunteer who has professional experience related to your project and the type of writing for your course.
Although the process varies somewhat by course, you can expect to have three main interactions with your reader:
- Soon after you are matched with a volunteer, you initiate an introductory meeting where you and your reader get to know each other and discuss your writing assignment. You will have a chance to ask your reader questions to help you get a sense of the audience for your paper, while your reader will ask you about your writing project. Plan for 20-30 minutes. Decide with your reader whether to meet in person, on the phone, or virtually.
- Once you have a coherent draft of the paper, you e-mail the draft to your reader who will provide feedback from their perspective as someone with experience in the field. Typically you’ll get some written comments, followed by a real-time conversation. You’ll find out what readers do and don’t understand, what they find interesting and where they are bored, what they find convincing, and where they are skeptical. Conversations usually last 45 minutes to an hour.
- Once you’ve revised the paper you’ll have a follow-up meeting to discuss the revised draft (again, about one hour long). This will help you find out what’s working better in the new version and where the reader is still struggling. You’ll use what you learn here to produce the final draft.
What’s expected of you?
Your live conversations with your reader will take about two to three hours over the course of the semester. Other than that, you won’t be doing much that isn’t already required for the course. If you choose to sign up for the Reader Project, we ask that you:
Be proactive. At the beginning of the semester, you should check our page for your course, sign up, and monitor your inbox for a matching message from us. We expect that you will be proactive in communicating with your reader along the way. The program coordinator will send reminders, but you are chiefly responsible for initiating the interactions with your reader, corresponding in a professional and timely manner, and sending revisions to your reader. Also, many readers enjoy hearing your reaction to their feedback. We suggest you send regular updates on the status of your draft and how the reader’s comments have helped you. You will be expected to send a final draft of your paper to the reader at the end of the semester.
Stay in touch. We know that unforeseen circumstances arise, but you will need to be in contact with your partner, so he or she does not wonder what happened to you. If you have any problems contacting your partner, or if you haven’t gotten a response in the time you think you should have, please contact us right away at email@example.com so we can figure out what’s going on. The longer you wait, the harder it is to get the process back on track.
Inform your reader. Tell your reader about the nature of your writing task, explain the assignment, the timeline for the assignment, and the kinds of feedback you would like, and figure out the kind of interactions that will work best for both of you. Find out if your reader has time to respond to questions you have about your work-in-progress between drafts.
Own your work. Finally, you must take ownership for all decisions related to your paper. No matter who your reader is ot what they say, you should see your reader as just one source of useful feedback–not the final authority. Give your reader’s comments serious consideration, but make your own decisions. Ultimately, authority for evaluating your written work rests with your instructor. If you are unsure about whether a particular comment or advice is on target for your particular paper, check with your instructor.
**Note: If you are unclear about the writing assignment, please ask your instructor for clarification. Your reader does not know what is expected of you and when. The final authority is always your instructor.
For more information look at the Student section of the Important Things to Know page.