Requesting Feedback on Writing

Why getting feedback is important

Getting feedback is an essential part of becoming a better writer. In the US university system, students are expected to request feedback from their professors and mentors as their ideas evolve. We believe seeking feedback shows that a student is intellectually curious and active. Don’t wait until you feel your paper is perfect before you seek comments – It will probably never be perfect! Advisers, instructors and the Writing Center staff can help you at any stage of the writing process.

How to get good feedback

When asking for feedback, it is most useful and appropriate to provide a short background of the paper and then ask specific questions about the paper. Asking someone to “proofread” your paper might get you some type of feedback, but the more specific you can be about what you want comments on, the better the feedback will be. For example, do you have difficulties with flow? Organization? Transitions? Grammar? Something else? Think about your strengths and weaknesses. If you’re not sure where to begin, try reading the paper aloud. Where does it sound strange to you? Are there any sections or sentences that don’t seem quite right?

Listed below are some common general questions students tend to ask which usually elicit vague or poor feedback. Also listed are some examples of more helpful, more specific questions, which can direct the reader’s attention, allowing him or her to provide better feedback.

✗ General Questions
Could you give me some comments on my paper?
Can you check my grammar?
Could you proofread my paper?
Feedback on anything will be helpful!

✓ Specific Questions
Are my ideas in a useful order?
Can you follow the logic of my argument?
Are my transitions clear?
Does the third paragraph make sense?
Choosing the correct preposition can be difficult for me. Can you make sure I’m using them correctly?
I’m confused about which verb tense to use in the Methods section.
I’ve noticed that I sometimes make agreement errors with nouns and verbs. Can you go over this with me?

How to respond to feedback

Receiving a paper covered in comments, questions and red ink can be discouraging. But it shouldn’t be! Feedback is not a critique of you and should not be taken personally. Providing feedback is a common way for advisers to propel students forward, challenging their ideas and making them think harder and more carefully. When you receive feedback from a professor, thoughtfully consider each comment. If you do not understand something, discuss it with your professor. A request for clarification is seen as an opportunity for learning and is not considered rude at all. The following request is a reasonable and polite way to ask for clarification:

“On page 7, you wrote X. I don’t quite understand what you mean by this. Could we make an appointment to discuss it?”

For much more information on requesting and using feedback, please see the Writing Center’s main handout on this topic.

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