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Give feedback to others and become a better writer yourself

Writing is often a solitary practice and it’s not always easy to motivate yourself or to get an overview of the process. In this case, scheduled feedback sessions can be a good way to get some extra deadlines, company in your writing and practice in analysing text.

It’s perfectly fine to have feedback sessions digitally – there are even things that work better digitally than when meeting in person. It’s easier to establish structure and efficiency digitally and you can screenshare in a practical way or write in the same digital document. Additionally, break-out-rooms in Zoom are both more quiet and easier to book than physical study rooms.

Some texts you write at University are strictly individual, but in many cases it’s accepted and encouraged to help each other move forward with the writing process. Check with your teacher first if you’re unsure.

Both receiving feedback and giving feedback can make you a better writer. When you receive feedback, you get to see your own text with new eyes and become motivated to continue working. When you give feedback, you gain inspiration from other people’s interpretation of the task, which in turn gives you tips that you can use in your own writing.

Remember that feedback is not just about making slight improvements to texts that are almost finished. On the contrary, feedback usually has the most impact early on in the writing process. We often need most help with interpreting the instructions, getting started with the writing or developing ideas. When we receive comments on something we already feel finished with, there’s a big risk that we don’t have the energy or time to make any big changes.

Some advice for when you're giving feedback

  • Be kind – this doesn’t mean that you should only give positive feedback, it just means you should maintain a positive tone. Feel free to discuss in advance what that means for you.
  • Sort – Give a reasonable amount of feedback and focus on what you think is most relevant for the writer during this specific part of the process.
  • Use I-statements – “this is how I interpreted”, “here is where I paused”, “this inspired me to”, “here I was wondering” … Feedback shouldn’t be formulated as truth about the text, it should be formulated as information about your reading and interpretation.
  • Avoid evaluative adjectives without examples – never say that something is good without explaining how and why it’s good. This is difficult but it’s an important part in giving feedback that leads to learning.

Some advice for when you’re receiving feedback

  • Write a feedback cover letter to your feedback group where you tell them where you’re at with your assignment and what you would like to receive feedback on.
  • Be quiet when you’re receiving feedback, with the exception being if there’s something you don’t understand. It’s very difficult to listen attentively if you allow yourself to negotiate with the feedback. It will also disturb the person who has spent time preparing the feedback if you’re constantly interrupting.
  • Remember that the person responsible for your assignment is still you. Don’t automatically change everything according to the feedback you receive, but make sure you understand and can justify the changes you make.
  • Take notes while you’re receiving feedback and put aside time directly after the meeting to continue working with the assignment while the feedback is still fresh in your memory.