Which 10 feedback comments are most common?
This is the third and final lesson about Dealing with Feedback. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.
– Better understand tutor comments during the feedback process at university
– Have access to other resources to help with error correction
– Complete the Lesson 1-3 Worksheets to improve proficiency and check comprehension
Understanding the feedback a tutor provides during a bachelor’s degree may not be as easy as students think, particularly for those non-natives who are studying their major in English. Even when you’re prepared for the type of feedback you’ve received and have done your best to interpret it, it’s still possible that you may be unsure about what’s being suggested. This may be because you’re unfamiliar with the error-correction code your tutor uses, do not understand an idiomatic phrase or simply cannot decode their cryptic handwriting.
This final lesson therefore provides students with ten examples of commonly confusing feedback comments and explores what they mean. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it will hopefully assist any student that’s new to academia, English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and university-level assignments.
Comment 1: “This is not appropriate academic style.”
Academic ‘style’ usually refers to the language and conventions which are most common to academia and a particular discipline. If your tutor has mentioned that you need to make improvements here, consider reviewing our courses on:
- academic language
- antonyms and synonyms
- cohesive devices
- hedging language
- subject-specific terminology
Comment 2: “Please fix your sentence structure.”
If a tutor mentions that your sentence structure is a problem but doesn’t explicitly say which type of sentence to use, then they will want you to figure this out. Analyse the sentence in question, review your use of verbs (such as their tense and aspect), punctuation, dependent and independent clauses and coordinating or subordinating conjunctions.
Comment 3: “Select a different word.”
Though this comment seems easy to understand, the error may not be so easy to correct. A mistake will likely have occurred, for instance, if you’ve selected incorrect synonyms in an attempt to add variety to your writing or to make your work sound more academic. Consider investigating our courses on word meanings (such as idioms) to see if your use of figurative language is appropriate in academic contexts. In the end, reverting back to a simpler word or rephrasing your expression entirely may be the most effective response to this type of feedback.
Comment 4: “This is a weak argument.”
Any student who receives this should review their overall argument and the claims they are making in their body paragraphs to reflect on whether they are using enough appropriate evidence to demonstrate their point. Arguments should be clear, concise and strongly related to the thesis statement and topic sentence. Avoid making loose connections between ideas and try to remain focused on one key point in every body paragraph to enable a more thorough investigation.
Comment 5: “Your argument lacks logic.”
While this may look similar to Comment 4, in this instance a student may have supported their claim with evidence or ideas that aren’t connected or that aren’t necessarily in the right order. Evaluate what you have written and consider:
- How true is this opinion, claim or fact?
- How connected is this information to my main idea and thesis?
- Is this argument really relevant? Should I delete it in favour of something else?
Comment 6: “This point needs more development.”
This comment means that you’re on the right path (well done) but need to expand on the idea you’ve included with more examples or evidence. For comprehensive advice on expanding the source-based support that makes the bulk of a body paragraph, carefully study our course on supporting details.
Comment 7: “This paragraph lacks focus.”
As a new student, it’s easy to write essays as you would a story, telling the reader lots of information without showing them much of value. Instead, it’s better that an academic paragraph focuses on one main idea in its topic sentence and explores that idea in detail, using evidence, examples and explanation. Provide too many ideas in one paragraph and your argument will lack focus, looking more like a list of factors than an in-depth academic investigation.
Comment 8: “You’ve provided too much detail here.”
Receive this comment and reflect on the fact that you have some information that needs deleting. Maybe you included too much background information in your introduction or too many facts in your body paragraph. Whatever the problem is, re-approach your writing with a sharp editor’s eye and be ruthless in removing anything unnecessary or superfluous.
Comment 9: “This paragraph is lacking key elements.”
In this case, you’ll need to review the key elements of introductions, body sections and conclusions such as thesis statements and topic sentences and consider which you are missing. Though it’s not 100% necessary to include every element every time, your tutor will be expecting you to demonstrate (in the first year especially) that you can write a generic but clear and convincing essay.
Comment 10: “You are not on topic.”
It isn’t uncommon for students to produce well written assignments that are interesting but have lost focus of the essay question. Remember to remind yourself often about the essay title and consider whether each section address that topic specifically and solely – and be prepared to delete (and replace) irrelevant sections.
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