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Writing a Paper: Revising Based on Feedback

Using Feedback

After you have shared your work with an instructor, you will receive a copy of your paper with embedded feedback. This feedback will appear as comment bubbles along the right side or colored text within the paper. Sometimes seeing the reviewed paper can feel overwhelming or discouraging. To overcome doubt and optimize that feedback, follow these tips:

1. Prepare. Looking at feedback (even when it is constructive), requires a calm, measured mentality. Before opening the reviewed paper, tell yourself two things:

  • I am not my writing. Although writing is often an intimate act—especially when you discuss your own experiences, values, and goals—it is separate from you as a person. A criticism of your writing is not a criticism of your personality.
  • Feedback is part of learning. To become an effective communicator and scholarly writer, you must hear from your audience, in this case your instructor.

2. Scan. Quickly read through all of the comments to see their breadth. Do not linger; just scan and absorb. What stands out to you?

3. Walk. Put the paper away—either by closing the file or placing the paper in a drawer. Do something else, preferably active. You could go for a walk, practice yoga, or clean. During this time, reflect on the content of the feedback.

4. Ask. Return to the document and begin rereading. If a comment is confusing, ask the instructor to explain it. You could even request an example of a stronger paper and compare it to your own. Take charge of your education by ensuring understanding.

5. Prioritize. You will not be able to perfect every aspect of writing in one revision. Therefore, you will need to prioritize, choosing the most important or relevant skills to work on first. Here are three strategies you could take:

  • Order the comments from the most important to the least important. Oftentimes the reviewer will let you know what the top areas for improvement are; if you do not have that guidance, use your judgment in determining what skills are most valuable to learn. Choose the top two or three to work on.
  • Start with global improvements. These global improvements are the bigger concerns in your paper: introductions and conclusions, paragraph organization, argument construction, and idea development. You can work on the smaller grammar, sentence, and style tweaks later.
  • Follow the points. Examine the rubric to determine what areas are worth the most points toward the overall grade. Because of the high point value, you could potentially benefit the most from addressing these categories. Also review the areas where you lost points on the paper.