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Giving and receiving feedback

Writing is often a solitary process and it’s not always easy to stay motivated or to keep track of what you’ve been working on. Organising response meetings can be a great way to set up some extra milestones for your papers, as well as to help you to feel less alone in the writing process. Booked feedback meetings can also help you practice your skills in analysing text. Some of the assignments you will write at Lund University are strictly individual, but in many cases it is not only okay, but actually encouraged to meet with other and help each other in the writing process. Just make sure to check with the teacher if you are unsure what type of assignment it is.

Response meetings can be carried out digitally or physically, although especially during Corona times, there are some advantages to meeting digitally. It is easier to create structure and efficiency digitally, for example, and being online means being able to use certain features, like screen sharing, during the meeting. It is also possible to work together on a digital document, for example, or to use break-out rooms in Zoom which are both quieter and easier to book than physical group rooms.

Getting feedback and giving feedback are both processes which can make you a better writer. When you receive somebody else’s feedback on your text, you get to review your own writing with fresh eyes which can be really motivational. When you give feedback, you not only have the opportunity to be inspired by other student’s interpretation of the task, you can also get tips on different styles and methods in preparing written tasks.

Keep in mind that these sort of feedback meetings are not just about refining an almost finished text. On the contrary, usually these meetings are the most effective early on in the writing process, when they can help you to interpret the instructions, get started with writing or to develop your ideas. If you receive too many comments on something that you already feel finished with, the risk is that you will not have the strength or time to make any major changes.

Some advice for giving feedback:

• Be kind – this doesn’t mean you should only give positive feedback, but that you should always give your criticism with a positive tone. Feel free to discuss in advance what this means for you.

• Be selective – you shouldn’t nit-pick too much when giving a response to your classmates: focus instead on what you think is most relevant to the writer at this stage of their process.

• Use “I-message” – for example, statements like "this is how I interpreted…", "this is where I stopped…", "this inspired me to…", "this is what I was wondering about…" Your response should be just that: your response – not an absolute truth about the text but your reading and interpretation of it.

• Give examples – never say that something is good without explaining how and why it is good. This is difficult but important in order for your responses to actually be productive for the listener.

Some advice for receiving feedback:

• Be clear on what sort of feedback you would like – send a cover letter or some kind of message to your group, where you can let them know both where you are up to with the work and what you would like feedback on.

• Be quiet – you shouldn’t be talking when someone is giving you their feedback, unless you do not understand what they are saying. It is very difficult to listen properly if you are trying to defend against their response. Additionally, you disturb the person who spent time preparing the response for you.

• Remember that you are still in charge – it is you who is ultimately responsible for your task. Don’t automatically change everything based on the response you receive, especially if you feel the feedback isn’t going to help your task. A good rule of thumb is to always make sure that you understand, and can justify, the changes you make to the text, even if they were prompted by another student’s feedback.

• Take notes – it is important to write down the feedback of your peers while they are responding to your work, and to then set aside time immediately after the meeting to continue working on the task when you still have the response fresh in your memory.