In honor of Academic Writing Month (#acwrimo), I have decided to write a weekly series on feedback/revision/editing. This is an often overlooked, yet important, aspect of academic writing.
So now you’ve written your piece or perhaps you’re in the planning stages. It’s your work, so you want to maintain ownership. However, you also know you’re going to have to have your piece reviewed. Who do you ask? What type of feedback should you get before you submit a piece? How do you get feedback so that you maintain ownership of your scholarship, yet still are able to produce a publishable piece?
First, recognize that there is a difference between writing you do as a student compared to writing you do as a professional academic or researcher. As a student, you are writing (for the most part) to be evaluated on your knowledge of a topic. Therefore, when you write, there is a piece of you that goes into your writing. If your writing is evaluated as lacking, it reflects on you, the student. It is important as a student that you demonstrate what you know to the evaluator (teacher, evaluator(s), dissertation committee).
Professional writing, on the other hand, is to provide information/a view point/research to a readership that may be interested. As a result, peer reviewers and editors want your writing to align with the expectations of the readers. They are not looking at WHO wrote the piece, but the written piece itself. If they reject or want you to change something about your written product, they are not rejecting you as a person (many times, especially in blind reviews, they don’t even know who you are), but your writing, ideas, or the appropriateness of the writing for the audience they represent.
When to ask for feedback
This depends on how you write. I like to ask for feedback in the planning stages. I know of colleagues that send ideas to publishers and editors to ensure it is viable or get suggestions on how to frame a piece of writing for a particular audience. This can save you a lot of editing in the long run. On the other hand, if you are someone prone to writer’s block, this type of feedback could build the wall up to reinforce the writer’s block.
Book writing is very different than article writing. Often you need to submit an outline which includes an audience and justification for publishing. This is when feedback from colleagues or others in your profession come in handy. Identify some experts to submit your outline to for feedback. If you are in a very competitive discipline send them the general concept (as opposed to a fully developed proposal). Their feedback can then become part of your proposal.
Before you submit a first draft, have someone unfamiliar with the topic review what you’ve written. They can assess the clarity of your writing without having to analyze your content. Then you may want an expert to review your piece for the content/theoretical basis. It helps to identify for your editor/reader what you want them to look for. If you don’t ask them to correct typos or grammatical errors, don’t expect that they will do so.
Finally, expect you will need to make revisions. Sometimes this helps take the pressure off to be perfect which can create writer block. If the draft you submit is not perfect, don’t worry. Even if you think it’s perfect, most likely the peer reviewers will have suggestions. Don’t take this feedback for publication personally as the reviewer is probably just trying to align your writing to reader expectations. Once you get suggestion back, review each piece of feedback. It is not necessary that you make changes for everything suggested by reviewers. Rather, think of what they are saying and keep those things that you feel are important to keep. If you have reviewers that are contradicting in their feedback, work with the editor to determine what he or she wants you to do. The editor has the final say.
So, 1) Don't be afraid to ask for feedback at any time during the writing process;
2) You don't have to accept everything a reviewer suggests, but you do need to consider his or her comments and be able to justify your choices;
3) Have at least one person who knows nothing about your topic review your writing for clarity;
4) During the formative writing process, tell your reviewers/readers what you want them to focus on in their feedback;
5) Don't take feedback personally, especially if you are writing for publication.
- 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.