Rock Valley College

Understanding Instructor Feedback

Comprehend and implement instructor feedback 

Feedback and revisions are a normal part of the writing process. Authors from every genre routinely share their work with others to receive suggestions for improvement. Novelists submit manuscripts to editors who suggest revisions. Journalists work with copy editors who help revise their work. Researchers share their findings with other experts in the field to write peer-reviewed articles. As a college student, reviewing and understanding instructor feedback is an essential part of improving as a writer.

To best comprehend and implement instructor feedback, follow the guidelines below: 

Since your instructor took the time to provide feedback on your work, make sure to carefully review each comment. Highlight any comments that seem particularly important, and mark any terms used in the feedback that are unclear. 

If there are unclear terms used in the feedback you received, look them up to be sure you understand what is expected. For example: 

  • If your instructor noted that you “lack transitions” in your paper, you may want to be sure you know about the different types of transitions and when to use them. A quick Google search of “using transitions in writing” might find you several sources to consult when revising based on the feedback. Or better yet, if you visit the RVC Writing Center Resource Library, you will find a handout that gives you a complete list of transitions and ideas on when to use them. 
  • If your instructor has commented that you seem to be having trouble “synthesizing sources,” you may need more information on what that means. Again, a quick Google search might be all it takes. If you are still unsure, the Writing Center Resource Library has a handout on the topic as well as sample papers, all of which synthesize sources effectively. 

As you review the instructor’s feedback, write your own notes in the margins of your paper for how you can address each comment. You can write more details, link to additional sources (like those you found when looking up the terms used), or provide directions like “Move this paragraph” or “Cut this section.” It is helpful to take notes soon after you receive feedback, since the information will be fresh in your mind. 

Instructors often point out errors in papers only once to alert you to an ongoing problem. As the student, it is your job to review your assignment for other similar issues. For example, if your instructor notes a run-on sentence, fix that sentence, but also look for other run-on sentences throughout your paper. If your instructor notes that you need a better transition between two ideas, search your paper for other places where you might need a transitional word or phrase. 

If you are able to resubmit your assignment, follow your instructor’s comments as a guide for how to revise your work. If you are not able to resubmit the assignment, it is still beneficial to revise your essay to learn how to avoid future problems in upcoming papers. For example, if you spend time rewriting topic sentences in a past essay, you already have practice for writing strong topic sentences in a future assignment. Taking a little time to revise will make the next writing process more efficient. 

After reviewing the instructor’s comments, feel free to ask questions if you do not understand the feedback. Rather than asking a general question like, “How can I improve?”, ask specific questions related to the comments you received, such as “When you say I need to strengthen my thesis, should I work to be more specific?” Your instructor wants you to succeed, so always feel comfortable asking questions on how to improve. 

The RVC Writing Center Resource Library can be found by visiting: 

Download the Understanding Instructor Feedback Handout here!