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Working with feedback

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This guide looks at how to make the most of the feedback that you get from your lecturers on the quality of your work. It looks at feedback connected to answering the question, organizing your work, critical thinking, supporting your essay with evidence and referencing.

Feedback on answering the question

Below is a collection of comments from lecturers on essays that were handed in to the university:

  • You need to read the question more carefully as you’ve only answered part of it.
  • The title asks for critical analysis, but you’ve just described the situation.
  • You should break down the question into parts to make sure you answer it fully.

If you’re getting these sorts of comments, it’s usually a problem with knowing what the question words in your title are asking you to do, and planning your essay so that it ‘fits’ with the type of essay question.

For example, it’s common to misinterpret the question words in your title, such as ‘Critically discuss’, ‘Evaluate’, ‘To what extent do you agree?’ These words tell you what the essay should be trying to do. For example, ‘Critically discuss’ doesn’t just ask you to describe something, it’s asking you to draw conclusions from evidence.

The following links will help you work on these areas:

Understanding the question - guidance on the first steps of thinking about your assignment title

Planning your answer – guidance on how to approach your answer to the essay question

Feedback on organising your work

Below is a collection of comments from lecturers on essays that were handed in to the university:

  • It’s difficult to follow your argument as it jumps from one point to the next and then back again.
  • Your essay reads like a stream of consciousness. You need to break it down into parts.
  • An idea of where you’re going in the introduction would help.
  • It’d be good to see a conclusion that brings all your points together.

The best way to make sure your essay flows from one point to the next is to make a clear plan for how you intend to answer the question and then organise the information for your answer clearly into the introduction, main paragraphs and a conclusion.

The introduction helps the reader get a feel for where you are going and what you are going to write about. This is a big advantage because when you do make your points later on in your essay, the reader is already half way to understanding them. The paragraphs in the main body and your conclusion should all relate back to key points set out in your introduction.

Separating your work into paragraphs helps a lot, especially if you keep to the rule of thumb that one paragraph should be about one thing.

The following links will help you work on these areas:

Planning your answer – guidance on organising how you will answer the question

Structuring your essayguidance on organising the information in your introduction, main body and conclusion

Paragraphing – guidance on constructing clear paragraphs from notes and expressing an argument

Feedback on critical thinking

Below is a collection of comments from lecturers on essays that were handed in to the university:

You’ve described the relevant studies but haven’t gone any further. To get a higher mark you need to draw parallels between the theories, describe similarities, differences, drawbacks, etc.

  • Too descriptive.
  • There is not enough analysis in your work.
  • You have told me what the theory is, rather than how you evaluate it.
  • Less description and more critique needed.

The problem of description versus analysis goes by a lot of names, including ‘critical thinking’, ‘argument’, ‘premise and conclusion’ and ‘drawing conclusions from evidence’. This is probably the most common feedback made on students’ writing at university and improving your ability to analyse, evaluate, critique and form arguments is the key way to improve your marks.

Often the problem is spending too much time describing theories, studies, events, etc without bringing these together and drawing conclusions from them.

The following links will help you work on these areas:

Reading critically – video and guidance explaining what we mean by critical thinking and how to read critically

Developing your critical skills – video and guidance on demonstrating and developing critical skills

Developing an argument – guidance on expressing critical arguments within paragraphs

Feedback on supporting your work

Below is a collection of comments from lecturers on essays that were handed in to the university:

  • There is no supporting evidence for your work.
  • This feels like a collection of opinions without (necessary) evidence.
  • At times you make statements without providing evidence for them. This makes the validity of your argument very difficult to interpret.
  • You put forward the right theories, but at times your work could do with facts and figures to support them.
Below is a collection of comments from lecturers on essays that were handed in to the university:

  • There is no supporting evidence for your work.
  • This feels like a collection of opinions without (necessary) evidence.
  • At times you make statements without providing evidence for them. This makes the validity of your argument very difficult to interpret.
  • You put forward the right theories, but at times your work could do with facts and figures to support them.

Feedback on referencing

This is a common problem at university because a lot of people aren’t used to using referencing, and there are a lot of rules that you have to look out for. The following link will help you with some of the basics lists of references/bibliographies:


Referencing – guidance and exercises on using correct referencing at UEL.

You could also look at how others use referencing when they are supporting their points. Here is a link to some examples:

Paragraphing – the two guides illustrate citing evidence within paragraphs.

For a more comprehensive guide, make sure you check your work with the book ‘Cite Them Right’. This will give you advice on how to reference everything from books to articles to CDs to the Bible.

To access the Cite Them Right e-book:

Log in to the virtual learning environment (UEL Plus) via UEL Direct
Click Campus Bookmarks then select Cite Them Right to open the e-book
If you are studying Psychology, use the Student Skills Repository in UEL Plus for APA referencing advice.

This is a common problem at university because a lot of people aren’t used to using referencing, and there are a lot of rules that you have to look out for. The following link will help you with some of the basics lists of references/bibliographies:


Referencing – guidance and exercises on using correct referencing at UEL.

You could also look at how others use referencing when they are supporting their points. Here is a link to some examples:

Paragraphing – the two guides illustrate citing evidence within paragraphs.

For a more comprehensive guide, make sure you check your work with the book ‘Cite Them Right’. This will give you advice on how to reference everything from books to articles to CDs to the Bible.

To access the Cite Them Right e-book:

Log in to the virtual learning environment (UEL Plus) via UEL Direct
Click Campus Bookmarks then select Cite Them Right to open the e-book
If you are studying Psychology, use the Student Skills Repository in UEL Plus for APA referencing advice.

Five tips for making the most of feedback

  1. Always check the feedback on your assignments. If you don’t, you are missing a great opportunity to see where you can improve your marks.
  2. Spend some time going through the feedback comments, re-reading parts of your essay if necessary. Try to identify one area you will try to improve on in the next assignment.
  3. View feedback constructively. It is not meant as negative criticism. Use it to get a balanced view of your strengths and weaknesses.
  4. If you don’t understand the feedback on your essay, ask for some clarification. Your lecturers are happy to explain comments further and give clear advice on the marking criteria for your subject area.
  5. Act on your feedback. It’s not enough just to understand it. Use it to identify patterns of weaker areas and make an action plan for areas where you need to do more practice, for example, by using Write it right and the other resources available to you. There are links to more writing skills resources on More help.