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Mini-module: Quick Guide to Interpreting Feedback: Home

This is a shorter version of the full mini-module.



Feedback is Important. Its purpose is to help you improve and get a better result next time. Read feedback and try to understand it, and don’t just focus on the overall grade. 

This page is a shorter version of the full-length Mini-module: Interpreting Feedback

The most common problems highlighted by feedback

Have a look at the eight most common areas that come up in feedback below. See if any of them are similar to your feedback. Read the tips and follow the links provided to pages that will help you to fix the issue. 


1. Not answering the question

Example feedback:

“You didn’t address the question”
You probably misunderstood the question. There are two possible reasons for this:

  • Not understanding what exactly the question words meant
  • Not spending enough time analysing the key words in the question

To find out what the question words mean, have a look at this Glossary which explains them. For a video that explains how to analyse a question so that you really are answering the question, see this video from Reading University


2. Critical thinking

Example feedback:

“Too descriptive”
This means you are reporting or describing the information, but not show that you have done some critical thinking about it. You need to show the reader that you are thinking about, questioning and processing the literature that you read.

For help with this, see our Mini-module: Quick Guide to Critical Writing.[On Moodle]


3. Grammar and spelling

Example feedback:

“Not clear what you mean here.”
If the mistakes are not accidental typos, then you might need to work on your grammar or vocabulary. We have these Mini-modules:

See our Resources Page on Editing and Proofreading to find out how to check and correct your own work.

And, we have a Resource Page about how to choose and use the right words, Academic Vocabulary


4. Lack of evidence

Example feedback:

"You need to explain how your evidence supports your claims."
It may be that you need to evaluate the sources you choose and only use the reliable ones. You may also assess whether they are academic enough. For help with this, see Choosing the right sources, part of our Mini-module: Critical Thinking [On our Moodle site].

Or, it may be that you need to assess whether a source you are using actually shows what you think it shows. To find out more about this, see our Mini-module: Quick Guide to Reading Critically.[On our Moodle site]


5. Unclear or disorganised writing

Example feedback:

"You have a lot of good points, but they are not presented in a clear and concise way."
If you think you might have problems with planning and structuring your writing, have a look at Paragraphs and Essay Writing and Planning. You will see that there are some solutions you can use right away that will make a big difference.


6. Problems with referencing

Example feedback:

"You need to cite your sources more accurately."
For help with using references in your writing, see Incorporating Sources and Avoiding Plagiarism, and How to Write in your own Words. If you want to know how to format your references correctly, see LSBU Harvard Referencing: Home for the details. Also, look out for Upcoming Events in the Hub as there are frequent drop-in sessions where you can ask about referencing.


7 Knowledge

Example feedback:

"You need to provide more evidence to support your claims."
“You need to unpack this.”
If you know your subject, but you get a comment like the ones above, then you need to show your knowledge better in your writing. TIP: Pretend that your reader does not know your subject. This will force you to explain more clearly and, as a result, allow you to show your knowledge and understanding.


8. Writing style

Example feedback:

"Some of your vocabulary is not very academic."
“You should try to be more concise.”
Comments like this probably mean that the way you write is not successfully expressing complex or detailed academic points. It could also mean that you are using more words than you need. If either of these sounds like you, have a look through our Academic Vocabulary Resources Page to get tips, advice and useful links.



Here are some of the words that tutors use in their feedback. It is not always obvious what they mean, so here are some of the most common words with explanations.

First analyse and then come to a judgment about something.

Looking closely at something to see how its parts function and how it works. Physical things, ideas or hypotheses, or systems can all be analysed. It is necessary to do an analysis first if you want to make an evaluation of something.

Consider both sides of an argument rather than looking at only one position. It is better to bring in counterarguments and show that you are aware of them and have got reasons to dismiss them.

Academic subjects can get complicated, so it is necessary to explain things very clearly. Choosing the right vocabulary and making sure your grammar is not confusing are important. 

Another way to be clear is to make sure your writing is step-by-step, not missing things, or jumping around. It can help to imagine you are explaining things to someone like yourself, but who does not know your subject. 

Also, see Coherence

This is how your writing "sticks together" or the links between sentences and paragraphs. Here are some examples of feedback showing problems with coherence:

  • “Hard to follow“
  • “Is this linked to your previous point?”
  • “Not clear how this links”
  • “Is this a new point?”

If you get comments like these, it could be because:

  • You are not structuring your paragraphs correctly
  • You are not using linking words and expressions to show how sentences or paragraphs are connected
  • Your argument does not progress in a clear, step by step way

For help with this, see Paragraphs, and Academic Vocabulary.

For example:

  • “You need to be more concise”
  • “You are using more words than you need.”
  • “Be more concise.”
  • “Too wordy,
  • “Don’t waffle.”

Academic language should be clear. It should also avoid waffle or using more words than you need. You shouldn’t need to impress your tutor with elaborate words and phrases, so keep the language plain and accurate. Use the appropriate technical terms and try to avoid unnecessary words.

Concrete, Specific
Some examples of feedback about this are: 

  • “You need to be more specific, 
  • “Not concrete enough, 
  • “More concrete examples, 
  • “Be more specific, 
  • “Too vague”

Use specific examples rather than just writing in an abstract and general way. Here's an example of a sentence that is too general:

"People like films." 

The tutor reading this immediately has questions: Which people; When; Where; What sort of films; What do you mean by "like"? etc.  

See our Academic Vocabulary resources for help with this. 

Critical Thinking
For example, feedback might contain things like:

  • “Too descriptive”
  • “Critically evaluate”
  • “Critically analyse”

It is not enough just to report the information you find. You need to show you have done some critical thinking about it.

In your writing, show the reader that you are thinking about, questioning and processing the literature that you read.

For help with this, see Mini-module: Quick Guide to Critical Writing.

See Elaborate

For example:

  • “You need to unpack this”
  • “Please elaborate”
  • “More depth needed”

This means you need to explain more. You may need to define words, give examples, go through something step by step or in more detail.

See Coherence

You need to give examples

See Coherence

Not answering the question 
If this is a problem, you may get feedback like this:

  • “You haven’t answered the question”
  • “You didn’t address the question”

See the Glossary [pdf] of question words and what they mean and also see the workshop video on the Essay Resources page.

Proofreading is a type of quality control. Comments you might get if this is an issue might be::

  • “A lot of typos”
  • “Wrong word”
  • “Unclear punctuation”
  • “Not clear what you mean here” 

See our guide Editing and Proofreading for advice about how to improve in this area. 

Range of material
For example:

  • “Show wider reading”
  • “Don’t just use the text book”

You need to find more literature to use, and/or follow up the references you find in what you have read.

Too vague, Too abstract
See Concrete / Specific

See Elaborate

Wider range of literature
See Range of material

That's the end of this quick look at interpreting feedback.

Follow this link to find a longer and more detailed version of this Mini-module.



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