Identifying the explicit criteria underlying audience feedback
Assuming that you are a postgraduate or doctoral research student, you have probably sought and soon got used to your tutor or supervisor giving you feedback on your academic writing. You will have become familiar with trying to learn from this feedback. It may offer you two main forms of comment:
There is more that you could be learning at the same time as noting where you’ve done well and responding where you need to improve. Expert management researchers will have learned from their experience of writing for academic publication or writing research proposals that most journals or funding agencies make explicit the criteria (rules for assessing) that they ask reviewers to use in judging the quality of the submission. Many have become so familiar with these criteria that they automatically try to meet them in the work they submit. They also develop their own criteria of good practice which they apply alongside the official journal of funding agency criteria when reviewing others’ work.
You can speed up your learning to work instinctively towards meeting the criteria that are being used to judge your work. It is worth making a habit of identifying the criteria of good practice that underlie the feedback you’ve received, and then trying consciously to meet these criteria in your future writing for assessment. Sometimes your tutor or supervisor may make a criterion explicit, as in this piece of feedback indicating where the student has done well:
Good account of your empirical findings. In reporting qualitative research it’s important to portray both the range of findings and the most common finding. You’ve done both very convincingly.
The tutor or supervisor has made explicit the criterion of good practice:
The feedback gives the student reinforcement in planning to report both the range of findings and most common finding when reporting other research in future.
Here is a piece of feedback about improving a student’s draft literature review assignment:
Your conclusion section just repeats some of the findings from your literature review. A conclusion should contain one or more major claims about what all the literature you have reviewed together tells you about the topic. What key messages can you identify that come-up across most or all of the literature you’ve read?
How could the student respond in revising the draft? The tutor or supervisor has indicated what needs to be done in two ways. First, by making explicit the criterion of good practice:
Second, by giving the student a clue about how to improve the conclusion section through identifying key messages across the literature.
So the student can learn through trying out this idea in revising the assignment. But the student could learn even more by taking note of the criterion of good practice about what a conclusion should contain, and remembering to apply this criterion in future written work.
Have a quick look back at any feedback you have received from your tutor or supervisor on any of your drafts or completed work on which you have already been given feedback. See if you can identify the criteria of good practice that underpin the feedback you received. Look for lessons you can learn for improving your future written work from both: