"A problem well put is half solved." --John Dewey
Writing to solve problems, like writing to explore, is a way of thinking on paper (or on the computer screen)--a way to find out what you already know, to organize your thoughts, to visualize your problem, and to make connections between what you know and what you need to know or do. The greater the problem, the greater the need to write and explore different perspectives to ultimately help you discover solutions.
Carefully read your workshop partner's rough draft and consider the following:
- First of all, has the writer focused on an issue that is timely and relevant? In your own words (on the back of this page) summarize your workshop partner's take on
- What is the problem?
- Why does the problem exist?
- What are its consequences?
- Who will be affected?
- Who, specifically, are the groups holding opposing viewpoints on this issue?
- Next, take a close look at your workshop partner's proposed solution. While this is a rough draft and most likely does not yet defend the solution, does it strike you as a reasonable proposal so far? Below, share your honest response with your partner to help him or her anticipate possible reactions to such a solution.
- Having looked at the proposed solution, is it a true compromise? What common ground has the writer been able to establish? (If it hasn't yet been established, what advice could you give the writer at this point?)
- Now examine the argument developed by your workshop partner in defense of his or her proposal thus far (yes, it will be rough). Does it make a clear claim and outline some convincing reasons for you to go along with that? What works so far? What doesn't work yet? What would you suggest the writer do next in terms of revision? (Look at the big picture first: focus and development, i.e., researched examples and discussion. Next, examine organization and coherence. Finally, determine whether the argument betrays the writer's biases in any way.) Be specific and concrete in your advice.