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Using feedback: A short guide

Addressing your feedback

Below are some areas for improvement that are commonly highlighted by markers. See whether you recognise them, and consider some of the suggestions for how to address them.

Piece of feedback: ‘Essay lacks a clear focus’ 

Possible solutions:

  • Make a detailed plan before you start to write, considering the points you want to make and the order in which you will present them.
  • Decide what you want to argue in the essay (based on the literature you’ve read and the thinking you’ve done) before you begin to write.
  • Avoid waffling your way into an essay with too much unnecessary background information. Answer the question from the start.
  • In your introduction, clearly state the essay’s argument, and outline its structure.
  • Make sure each paragraph contributes something to your argument, and that the relevance of all of your points is completely clear.


Piece of feedback: ‘The writing style makes the ideas hard to follow’

Possible solutions: 

  • Always strive for the clearest, most concise way of expressing an idea. 

  • Make sure your sentences aren’t too long. p Ensure each paragraph makes just one central point, and that you are not leaping around or smudging your ideas together.
  • Look at the sequencing of sentences within each paragraph – do they build up your point in a logical, easy to follow way?
  • Take steps to revise grammar and punctuation. 


Piece of feedback: ‘Essay needs to demonstrate more critical analysis’

Possible solutions:

  • Go through your essay, highlighting descriptive writing in one colour and critical analysis in another. Have you got too much description and not enough analysis?
  • Look at your chunks of description. Could they be condensed? How could you develop them into analysis? Where have you missed opportunities to criticise or evaluate?


Piece of feedback: ‘Referencing and range of sources are inadequate’ 

Possible solutions:

  • Visit the I-cite website: https://intranet. and brush up on the Style Guide for your department’s preferred referencing system.
  • Make an appointment with an academic skills advisor from the library who can help you find a range of good quality resources for your assignments.
  • Make sure you are spending enough time reading and researching. Good essays are built on a solid foundation of wide, critical reading.


Being able to understand, respond to and implement feedback is one of the most important skills to develop at university.

If you spend time thinking about what your feedback means and how you can act on it, you will learn valuable lessons about what your tutors expect and how you can reach your potential.

References and further reading

Cooper, H. and Shoolbread, M. (2019) Using Feedback to boost your grades London:Macmillan. Available through findit@bham. 

Engaging with Feedback canvas course. 

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