This blog post might be difficult to read. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. If this is a hard blog post to sit with, then it might also be a sign it’s just what you need. Dealing with feedback can be uncomfortable, but what you do with that feedback is very important.
Part of being a post graduate student is receiving feedback. Feedback from your supervisors, colleagues, from research mentors, and last but certainly not least, your thesis committee members. If you hire a professional editor, you’ll likely get feedback from them, too. Keep in mind, you are still learning and feedback is your friend. Even not-so-great feedback is helpful (We’ll get to why later on). The important thing is that you listen, read, absorb it, and go from there. How you deal with and respond to feedback says a lot about you – and can even affect your career in a variety of ways.
Why Feedback is Helpful
When we look at our own work, it’s easy to have blind spots. We tend to think we did things the best way possible. Our writing makes sense to us because we know what we meant to say. But an outside reader is unaware of our thought processes, and if something needs more explanation, clarification, or feels disorganised, they can make us aware of that. Feedback from others can help us identify gaps in our research, holes in our logic, and parts of our paper that just aren’t working. It forces us to think critically and deeply about the ideas we put on the page.
Even less-than-wonderful feedback or seemingly irrelevant feedback can be useful. Any feedback you receive propels you to examine your writing more carefully so that you can think about whether changes are necessary – and that’s never a bad thing.
Responding to Feedback
If you’re in a workshop-type setting or group, where you (and others) verbally share and respond to written and/or verbal feedback, listening to all of the feedback with an open mind is crucial. Drop all defensiveness and remember that you are there to learn. If you disagree with the feedback, thank the person for sharing their thoughts and carefully consider why you disagree with their feedback before responding.
If your supervisor has provided feedback with which you don’t agree, it is never a good idea to ignore that feedback. At minimum, do your best to explain why you don't think you should make the changes they have suggested. However, this decision should only be made after careful consideration. Speaking with your supervisor about their feedback may provide further insight into why they suggested it in the first place.
When you receive feedback that you plan to address, make sure that in your next draft, you’ve clearly and thoroughly responded to the suggestion and revised the work accordingly.
It should go without saying, but it is never ever a good idea to respond to feedback in an aggressive or defensive manner. There is no need to get angry or upset. Do your best to remember not to take the feedback personally. Our work will always have room for improvement. You’re going to be receiving feedback in various ways for the rest of your career; if you can’t respond appropriately to it as a post graduate student, this could lead to difficulties in your future endeavours. Thoughtfully considering feedback and using it in a positive way to improve your work is a skill that will benefit you greatly in life.
Difficult Choices about Feedback
What happens, then, when you have conflicting feedback or you don't understand the feedback? Sometimes it helps to get a second opinion from a third party to give you objective guidance on how to address this feedback in a way that will provide the most benefit, deepen your research and writing, and help you achieve your goals.
A professional editor, like those at Thesis Editor, can not only provide you with thoughtful and critical feedback, but can also help you respond to and address the feedback you’ve already been provided with by colleagues or advisors. Contact us today to learn how we can be of assistance!