This blog post might be hard for some of you to read. Good. That’s a good thing – we all need to push our comfort zones and be uncomfortable from time to time. If this is a hard blog post to sit with, then it might also be a sign it’s just what you need – and that’s okay!
Part of being a graduate student is receiving feedback. Feedback from your cohort members, from your professors, from colleagues, from research mentors, and last but certainly not least, your dissertation or thesis Chair or advisor and your committee members. If you hire a professional editor (and you should), you’ll get feedback from them, too. Something to remember is that feedback is your friend. Even not-so-great feedback is helpful (We’ll get to why later on). The important thing is that you listen, you read, you take it in, and go from there. How you deal with and respond to feedback can say a lot about you to others – and even affect your career in a variety of ways.
Why Feedback is Helpful
When we look at our own work, it’s easy to have blind spots. Of course we like our own work! Our writing makes sense to us because we know what we meant to say. But an outside reader is unaware of our thought processes, and if something needs more explanation or clarification, they’ll tell us. Feedback can help us identify gaps in our research, holes in our logic, and parts of our paper that just aren’t working. It forces us to think critically and deeply about the ideas we put on the page.
Even less-than-wonderful feedback or seemingly irrelevant feedback can be useful. If you get consistent feedback from multiple people about one thing, and then someone else provides dissenting feedback about that same thing, you can recognize that maybe that feedback isn’t the best. It helps you discern helpful feedback from not-so-helpful feedback. Any feedback you receive propels you to examine your writing more carefully so that you can think about whether changes are necessary – and that’s never a bad thing.
Responding to Feedback
If you’re in a workshop-type setting or group, where you (and others) verbally share and respond to written and/or verbal feedback, listening to all of the feedback with an open mind is crucial. Drop the defensiveness; no one’s perfect and everyone’s there to learn. If you disagree with feedback, you can either simply thank the person for their contribution or you can calmly explain why you don’t agree.
If your professor has provided feedback with which you don’t agree, at minimum, it’s always best to explain why you’re not changing your work. Don’t just ignore the feedback. However, this decision needs to be made after careful thought and editing. Talking with your professor about their feedback may provide further insight into why they suggested it.
When you do get feedback that you plan to address, make sure that in your next draft, you’ve clearly and thoroughly responded to it and revised the work accordingly.
It should go without saying, but it never hurts to be explicit: how you don’t want to respond to feedback is in an aggressive manner. Don’t lash out at the person or argue with them. Try not to take the feedback personally: they’re not critiquing you, they’re critiquing the work. You’re going to be receiving feedback in various ways for the rest of your career; if you can’t respond appropriately to it as a graduate student, this could mean trouble in the future. Taking in feedback and using it in a positive way is a skill that can only benefit you.
Difficult Choices about Feedback
What happens, then, when you have feedback that conflicts with one another, or when you are working with a professional editor and don’t like or disagree with their feedback? This is when you have some tough, important choices to make. Look at all the feedback and really take it in and consider it. What will move your work forward? What feedback will provide the most benefit, deepen your research and writing, and help you achieve your goal?
You won’t like all the feedback you get, even the good feedback. Good feedback isn’t the feedback you necessarily want to hear – but it’s the feedback you need to hear. The important thing is what you do with the feedback.
A professional editor, like those at Dissertation Editor, can not only provide you with thoughtful and critical feedback, but can also help you respond to and address the feedback you’ve already been provided with by colleagues or advisors. Contact us today to learn how we can be of assistance!