What does your feedback mean?

Posted in: academic skills, academic writing, essay-writing, feedback

Very often at this time of year students receive feedback on what they have written, and can be puzzled by what some of the comments mean. Here are some of the most common feedback phrases, and what they mean.

“More analysis needed”

This is very common, and suggests that you have done too much description, and have not gone into enough depth about what it actually means. For example, you might have done a lot of reading, but just written out what the various texts books say, without examining what the strengths and weaknesses of the different writers are. Or maybe you have described the reasons for something, without addressing alternative explanations and why they are flawed. Of course, you need to describe, to show that you have understood the facts, but you also need to analyse, to show you understand what these facts do, and do not, mean.


This is another common criticism.  It is used because students' work is difficult to follow, and their writing seems to jump from one idea to another. To avoid this, always make sure that you plan your essay and look at the organisation with a very detached eye. Does it make sense? Do the ideas flow? Also, make sure that you use words and phrases like “another argument in support of... is…” To show your reader what you are doing, and where your essay is going.

“Sloppy English”

Correct grammar matters at university. Make sure that you understand the rules for punctuation, especially commas and apostrophes - this blog on punctuation should help. Find out what “run on sentences” and “dangling participles” are, to ensure that you avoid them. Proof read your work carefully before you submit it.

Lacks originality

This criticism may have two meanings; the first is connected to plagiarism (copying the words of others and pretending they are your own), and the tutor may be highlighting poor paraphrasing and summarising skills. The second (and more likely meaning) is that you haven't used your sources logically and creatively to build your own argument, thesis or position in your assignment. You have simply listed, summarised, described or presented evidence, similar or different expert views,  data and so on, without combining them in such ways as to create a convincing argument and drive your thesis forward. In other words, your own academic voice is being drowned out by a mish-mash of other academic voices that don't seem to be working together without a clear logical purpose.

And finally, remember that all feedback is constructive, even the most critical! Take your tutor's advice and use it to build on your academic skills and improve your next assignment.

More information on understanding and using feedback on your assignments is available in our Feedback guide and Engaging with feedback self-access resource.

Posted in: academic skills, academic writing, essay-writing, feedback

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