Students receive a lot of feedback on their writing, whether from peer review, instructors, friends, or writing consultants. That feedback helps us improve as writers, but it can be challenging to turn those suggestions into an actual revision plan. We recommend following the steps below. And remember, you can schedule a Writers Workshop consultation to get some help making sense of that feedback and creating a plan!
Steps for Digesting Feedback
- Read (or listen to) all of the feedback. Don’t start revising until you’ve gone through your full document.
- Be respectful. Even if you don’t agree with all the advice, try to see why your reader made the suggestions they did.
- Identify what you’re feeling—reading feedback, like any situation where you’re sharing your writing, can be emotional. Many writers initially feel frustration, anger, or denial after receiving feedback.
- Take a step back. Put the feedback down for a day or two to give yourself time to process and begin synthesizing the most and least important advice.
- Seek a supportive environment. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or angry about the feedback you’ve received, seek out friends or other people you trust to share your feelings.
- Return to the feedback. After you’ve put it down for a day or two, it’s time to come back and create a revision plan (see below).
- Ask questions for clarification. Don’t hesitate to ask your instructor or other readers if you have questions about their feedback.
Synthesize and prioritize.
- If you have multiple sources of feedback (e.g., your professor, a Writers Workshop consultant, and a friend), it may be helpful to synthesize the feedback, combining it in a summary or break-down.
- Read through all the written feedback you have, trying to find patterns. For instance, are there many comments about structure, analysis, grammar, or the incorporation of evidence? What do multiple reviewers/ sources of feedback seem to agree on? Highlight any repeated advice.
- For small-scale suggestions (e.g., grammar corrections, suggestions of words to cut or change), decide whether you’ll make these changes first or save them for after you’ve addressed higher-order concerns.
- You might make a chart, list, or Venn diagram including each person’s higher-order concerns (suggestions about structure, ideas, and patterns that apply to your paper as a whole—usually, you’ll find these in the end-note of a teacher’s comments), to help you see the overlaps and patterns between them. For instance:
|Professor X||WW Consultant Y||Friend|
|Fine-tune topic sentences||Fine-tune topic sentences|
|Specify thesis further||Specify thesis further||Specify thesis further|
|Include more textual evidence||Push significance in intro|
|Deepen and complicate analysis||Deepen and complicate analysis|
- You might not be able to incorporate all feedback. Make a list of your action items, prioritizing your top concerns (i.e. “Thesis Statement, Topic sentences, Analysis sections of paragraphs three through five…”) after you’ve synthesized the feedback you’ve received.
Make a revision plan.
Your revision plan might take the form of a numbered or bulleted list, or something like the chart above. Your revision plan should address how and why you’ll make changes to your paper.
For instance, here’s an example of a number list:
- Specify thesis further: my thesis is quite general and unspecific. I need to make sure that it presents a detailed roadmap of what I discuss in my paper, as well as showing the significance of my argument. I can do this by reverse-outlining my paper, pulling the main idea out of the evidence and analysis presented in each paragraph and then weaving the most important points into my thesis.
- Fine-tune topic sentences: currently, many of my topic sentences present factual statements that are hard to argue with. I need to push them to be specific, argumentative claims. I can do this by asking “how?” and “why” questions of each of topic sentence, as well as asking myself how each paragraph supports my overall thesis/ argument.
- Include more textual evidence: in paragraphs 2 and 3, I talk mostly about my own argument, without including quotations to analyze from the text. I need to include more quotations from the text to achieve a better balance of evidence and analysis. To do this, I can revisit my outline, as well as the parts of Chapter 4 that I’ve highlighted, looking for pieces of the text that can help to flesh out my argument. I might also need to collect more secondary sources by searching the library databases for…
Or, you might try a bulleted plan like:
- “I’ll focus on XYZ.”
- “I’ll spend X amount of time on Y and X amount of time on Z…”
Use your resources!
- Writers Workshop
- Peers, colleagues, and friends