giving feedback on a paper

If you’re working with a writing partner, or a group, there’ll come a time when you want to give each other feedback. And you’ll want that feedback to be affirming not debilitating, and helpfully critical and not crushingly negative.

Here’s a few starting points that you can consider. They are leads to help you to organise your thoughts, and the conversation. You won’t cover all of these pointers of course in your actual conversation, but they are helpful  for your pre-reading. They simply  flag some of what you could discuss.


Photo by Annabelle Shemer, Flickr Creative Commons.

First of all, briefly sum up what you think is the argument of the paper. Hearing your version is helpful for the writer as they can compare your interpretation with their intention.

Now sum up what you think are the major strengths of the paper.

Tell the writer who you think will be interested in reading the paper and why –  they can check this against their imagined audience.

Next consider the warrant for the paper. Does the writer provide a convincing rationale for the paper, at the start? Do they state clearly what they are going to do in the paper? Do they establish the significance of the paper in the introduction? Do you have any ideas of what they might do differently?

Does the reader know what to expect in the paper? Does the writer say early on what the argument of the paper will be and how it will be presented? Is this presented in the abstract and/or the introduction, and what difference does this choice make for you as a reader? Is the argument explained economically and clearly?

Is the topic of the paper located in the relevant literatures? Are there any obvious texts that are omitted? Where are  literatures used in the paper – in the argument, method, or analysis – and where should they be?

Is the research design justified and clearly explained? Is it sufficiently detailed, or over-detailed? Do you have some suggestions for improvement?

Is the paper well structured? Does it flow? Was there any place where you felt you fell down a cliff? Show the writer where and discuss what they  might do to achieve flow.

Were there any parts of the argument that seem out of order? Or perhaps superfluous? Is all of the material used relevant to the argument? Is there evidence missing? Were there any obvious places where counter arguments or evidence could be made, but hadn’t been anticipated by the writer? Specify the problems you see and make suggestions about what the writer could do.

Are there sufficient headings and subheadings? Are the headings and subheadings informative? If not, offer some alternatives that fit with the content of the paper.

Does the writer raise any questions or problems in the text but that aren’t then dealt with? Be specific about what and where these are.

Does the conclusion of the article refer back to the warrant established at the beginning? Has the original problem or puzzle been adequately addressed? If not, what might the writer do? Does the writer address the So What and Now what questions in the conclusion – do they spell out the implications for policy, practice or further research? If not, what might the writer consider?

Did you notice any errors in sources, dates, names or quotation? Is the referencing correct and consistent?

Is the introduction interesting, is it likely to make the reader want to read on? do you have any suggestions for the writer?

Was there anywhere in the paper where you just lost interest in what was being said? Where did this happen and what could the writer do?

DO go back to some positive aspects of the paper at the end of the conversation. What did you find most interesting about the article? What was puzzling? What captured your imagination? Was there anything that made you think about your own work?

This rubric can also be helpful when you are re-reading and revising your own work. 

About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
This entry was posted in academic writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to giving feedback on a paper

  1. Mona Haug says:

    Thank you so much for a terrific summary which I will be using for my own research paper.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. wanderwolf says:

    Interesting how the rubric and guidelines don’t change at all from what is expected in a College Writing I course. The wording of the criteria may just be a little different. And yet, all of us have issues with something we supposedly learned to do in our first years of college, or even before. Just goes to show how fluid writing as a process and a product is. Sometimes, I wish I studied a math or science. 🙂
    Thanks for this summary.


  3. Sheelagh Halstead says:

    Thank you for a framework that I can use when editing academic work for students.


  4. Pingback: Giving feedback on a paper – patter | Imogen Wade

  5. Pingback: Three Blogs that Academics Should be Following | re/search

  6. phambichha says:

    Reblogged this on Phambichha's Blog and commented:
    the rubric to give comment on a paper ….


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