We are told repeatedly that feedback in an important part of the writing process. However, very little has actually been written/researched about writing feedback (other than that it should be done). My own research has indicated that there are seven different roles an editor/reviewer can play which will result in different types of feedback. These might help when you are submitting a paper (whether to an adviser/supervisor, an editor, an instructor, or a colleague).
1) Contributor: This person adds content to your writing. This is found in collaborative writing projects, but also in some academic writing. An instructor or reviewer may require that you add something verbatim into your written product. I think of grant applications or review board/ethics forms.
2) Owner: This is the person/entity that owns your product. This could be you (as the writer), a group, your instructor, your department (for which you are writing on their behalf), your institution (especially if writing is being used to evaluate), funders, publishers, or stakeholders (especially if you are doing participatory research). According to my research, sometimes it is easier to accept criticism if ownership is not the writer per se. However, this also means the writer needs to align their writer with that of the perceived owner of the document. So outside feedback from the owner becomes even more important.
3) Approver: This is the person that has the final say. This can be group members, an instructor/adviser/supervisor, a manager, a funder, participants. The approver will give you an okay or not okay, perhaps some reasons why, but not much feedback on how to change it. Papers/writing should not be submitted to Approvers until you are almost finished, although informal conversations may be needed to make sure writer(s) are on the right track.
4) Formatter: The formatter’s job is to make sure a paper is structurally, grammatically, stylistically appropriate. Many times the formatter is the writer. However, the formatter can also be a group member, editor, or consultant used to ensure writing aligns with stylistic/language/structure in which writing is situated. For example, an American writing for a British based journal will need to check for spelling conventions. This is the “mechanics” editing many of us learn in school.
5) Gatekeeper: This person has two major roles: a) make sure the writing process progresses through to completion, and b) make sure final product meets the expectation of the audience. This person can give verbal feedback throughout the process, maintain writing tasks and draft versions, and do targeted reviews at any time in the writing process. The gatekeeper is different from the approver in that he, she, or they do not have the final say. Rather they keep the process going.
6) Negotiator: The negotiator identifies when there is ambiguity in the writing. The negotiator does not change the writing like the owner or contributor would. Rather, they give feedback on their understanding of piece and identify areas needed for clarification. Through their feedback, they help the writer(s) to develop their message and supporting information. The negotiator plays the role of the audience so the writer can understand the impact of their writing on the reader.
7) Author: The author is public face of the writer. The name(s) that go(es) on the document is author. They are ultimately responsible for the final written piece. The author can be different than the contributor (in collaborative writing, for example, the writer may just put together contributions or may have someone else who formats). However, many times the author plays many of the roles outlined above, especially for academic papers for evaluation (such as dissertation or class paper).
In analyzing these roles, the types of editing/feedback/revision tasks can be divided into formative (developing a written document), technical mechanics (structure, style, grammar), authoritative (approval), and meaning making.
It is important when asking for feedback that you identify which of these tasks you are expecting the reading to do. It is useful if you are able to identify what role you perceive the reader to have. Not only will that help guide the reader in the type of feedback you want, it also helps you choose reviewers at different stages of the writing process.
For example, asking a teacher to review one of your papers at the beginning of the writing process may not get you the formative or meaning making feedback you need. Instead, their feedback might be authoritative without the type of feedback that you need to help develop your ideas. On the other hand, expecting a friend or colleague to understand the alignment a paper needs to have with academic standards or a journal (which approvers have) means that the approval they give a paper will lack the authoritative feedback you may need. It may be better to submit a draft for preapproval feedback before it is too late to make revisions.
- V Yonkers
- Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.