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The Reader Project offers you the opportunity to get feedback on your writing project from the reader’s perspective. You will work with a Duke alum or staff member who has professional experience relevant to your project. Such collaboration with an informed and interested reader outside the classroom empowers you with valuable insights on your work-in-progress. As student it is often difficult to imagine how readers beyond the classroom environment will react to the written work. Your writing mentor will help you learn to anticipate the needs and expectations of readers generally and within your field of study – one of the most important skills for successful writing, no matter what field you pursue. Additionally, you’ll likely find that having someone with a keen interest to read what you produce is a great motivator.

Fall 2020 Course List

Student Sign-Up Link for FALL 2020


If your instructor decides to participate 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 it varies according to the course, you will likely have three main interactions with your reader:

  1. Soon after you are matched with a volunteer, you need to 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. This usually last about 30 minutes and can take place in person, on the phone, or virtually.
  2. Once you have a coherent draft of the paper, you will e-mail the draft to your reader who will provide feedback from their perspective as someone who has experience in the field. This feedback will probably be written comments, followed by a live conversation. You’ll find out what readers might or might not understand, what they find interesting, and where they are bored, what they find convincing, and where they are skeptical. Conversations usually last about one hour.
  3. 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 three hours over the course of the semester.  You won’t be doing much more than what is already required for the course. If you 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 readerproject@duke.edu 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, it is essential that you see this person as one source of useful feedback among many, not the final authority. Give your reader’s comments serious consideration, but make your own decisions. If you are unsure about whether a particular comment or advice is on target for your particular paper, check with your instructor.

**Nota bene: 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.