Ten Steps for Dealing With Feedback, adapted from Get A Life, PhD

Kelly Louise Preece is the Researcher Development Manager for PGRs in the Doctoral College. You’ll recognise her face from workshops, her voice from WEBINARs, and her jokes from the 90s. You can follow her on twitter for musings about Researcher Development and the PGR experience…interspersed with tweets about superheros and sewing.

 

I really like Get a Life, PhD’s post ‘ How to Respond to a “Revise and Resubmit” from an Academic Journal: Ten Steps to a Successful Revision’ as its practically focused. As such, I adapted the ‘Ten Steps to a Successful Revision’ to develop ‘10 Steps For Dealing with Feedback’ – specifically your supervisor’s feedback on a draft of your thesis – for my How to draft your thesis WEBINAR. Here they are – I’ve used quotation marks to make sure I’m giving Get a Life, PhD due credit 🙂

Step One: Read or listen to the feedback.

Feedback on your draft thesis may come to you in a variety of different ways – an email, as track changes on a word document, or in a supervision. If it is the latter, I would suggest audio recording your supervision – that way, you can focus on discussing how to approach the re-draft rather than making sure you write every word down.

The first thing you need to do is to read or listen to the feedback: carefully.

Step Two: Take some time out.

Don’t try to tackle revisions whilst you’re feeling overwhelmed/angry/lost/confused/hurt…take some time out. Do something for yourself. Watch someone in your Netflix queue. Read a (fiction) book you’ve been dying to get to but not had the time. Go for dinner with the friend you key missing. Spend time with your family. Go away and stay with family/friends for a few days. Treat yourself and get some distance.

Step Three: Create an Excel File to List the Revisions.

When you are ready…

‘Create an Excel file with four columns in which to put the suggestions for revisions.’ Label the columns: “Supervisor”; “Suggestions”; “Response”; “Done?”.

Step Four: Extract the suggestions from the reviewers’ and editors’ letters.

Revisit the feedback ‘to extract the suggestions for revision and put the suggestions in the Excel file. This step requires the painful and painstaking process of closely reading [or listening to] the [feedback] and extracting all of the useful suggestions. On some occasions, the [feedback] can contain useful information, but not relay the information in a congenial fashion. The beauty of this step is that you can rewrite the suggestions and not have to look at the mean-spirited [feedback] again. For example, [your supervisor] might write: “One major problem with this [thesis] is that the research methods are suspect.” You can re-write this as: “Provide a more accurate and complete discussion of the data collection.”’

Step Five: Re-arrange the suggestions for revision in a logical fashion. 

‘Oftentimes, two [supervisors] will both mention in different ways that you need to build up the conceptual framework or the literature review. If you group all of the literature review suggestions together, it will be easier to tackle the revision systematically.’

‘Organizing all of the suggestions for the Introduction, the Literature Review, the data analysis, etc., will make it easier to respond to’. Of course, if done in track changes this is pretty easy, but helps you collate verbal comments etc. with these.

Step Six: Decide how you will respond to all of the suggestions. 

‘If the suggestion is to more clearly define the difference between “transnational” and “transborder,” then you can write: “Add one paragraph to the conceptual framework that clearly explains the difference between transnational and transborder, and why this distinction is useful.” Be sure that the suggestions you lay out for yourself make it clear what the next step is.

Note: Respond to all of the suggestions. There may be some suggestions that you disagree with. This is fine, but you have to make a conscious decision not to respond to any particular suggestion. For example, [your supervisor] might suggest that you return to the archive to explore more biographical features of a certain person. You can respond that this step is not necessary for your argument. Place all of your instructions to yourself for how you will respond in the third column’ for use in your next supervision meeting or when sending through your next draft.

Step Seven: Tackle your revision plan, step by step. 

‘Now that you have made a clear plan for revision by outlining all of the suggestions and have decided how you will respond, you can tackle the revisions one by one. If you feel intimidated, start with the easiest ones. Usually, the easy ones will be something along the lines of: “Find and add a quote from Diana’s interview that elucidates how subjects talk about discrimination.” Even easier: “Add citation from Stephens (2009) about transnationalism from below.”’

Step Eight: Double-check

‘Go back to the original [feedback], and double-check to make sure that you have not missed anything.’

Step Nine: Do a final read-over.

‘Read over your [thesis] to make sure that you have maintained the flow and argument in each chapter and overall, even after having made the revisions. Read it without thinking about the feedback, but imagine a reader who is unaware of your original version or the feedback, as that reader is now your intended audience.’

Get a friend or colleague to give it a read for you. Ask them to give you feedback on clarity, flow and argument, or perhaps just to proof-read it for typos!

Step Ten: Submit!

Either: another draft, or the final thesis!

Written by: Kelly Louise Preece- Researcher Development Manager for PGRs