The end is the beginning is the end.
Or so it constantly seems when writing an essay.
As soon as you think you’re finished, it’s time to examine, revise, and rewrite.
The end of your first draft marks the beginning of your second. The beginning of your third draft marks the end of your second. So on and so on.
The end is the beginning is the…
As a teacher, I can tell you that the second draft is much more important than the first, the third is more important than the second, and the final draft (if one really exists) is more important than the one that came before it.
This means that understanding and addressing the feedback in each draft is incredibly important to the success of your next draft. And to your grade.
The end is the beginning not only for you but also for your teacher. Your first draft might have been the best in the class, but if you ignore or misinterpret your teacher’s feedback when writing your second draft, your final grade certainly won’t be at the top.
So let’s take a look at 15 types of essay feedback and how to address each one in your subsequent draft.
15 Types of Essay Feedback and How to Address It
While this list obviously doesn’t address all possible types of essay feedback you might receive, these are the most common and cover vital components of any good essay.
1. “What is the main point/argument?”
Almost all academic essays require a thesis statement, which expresses your main idea or argument. The rest of your paper uses your thesis statement as a guiding light. All evidence and explanations are focused on supporting that important statement.
If your teacher is confused about what the main point or argument is within your essay, it’s almost assuredly because your thesis is weak or unclear. In your next draft, focus on writing a concise thesis statement that clearly expresses the main points of your essay.
You can also try Kibin’s thesis generator.
2. “The essay doesn’t flow well.”
Writing a longer essay can feel like an overwhelming undertaking for those who lack a lot of writing experience. Therefore, a common problem is that a first draft doesn’t flow well.
This can be because the writing is clunky or because the information isn’t presented in a logical order. To prevent this, it’s important to create an outline early in the writing process.
If you’ve already written a draft without an outline, try creating a reverse outline before writing your next draft. Once you’ve done this, you should be able to reorder your essay in a way that will flow better.
Beyond presenting information in a logical order, you need to develop strong transitions between points so that your writing flows flawlessly from one point to the next.
3. “This section is unclear.”
Even if you have outlined your essay and put paragraphs in a logical order, it’s easy to write a paragraph in a way that seems clear to you but isn’t for your reader.
This happens because you have spent so much time with the material that it’s difficult to imagine what it will be like for a reader who is coming in with a blank slate.
So if you find a paragraph in your draft highlighted as “unclear,” you should go back and look at the structure of that paragraph. Remember that you need a topic sentence that clearly states which part of the thesis the section or paragraph will be supporting.
Without it, you risk confusing your reader.
4. “There is not enough/too much evidence.”
There’s a fine line between having too much evidence and not enough. I have read some papers in which there were only one or two quotes in the entire paper, and I have read others in which almost the entire essay consisted of quotes from sources.
As a new writer, it can be difficult to strike the right balance.
Although your professor might encourage you to provide as much evidence as possible in support of your thesis, it’s still your paper. Too many quotes, statistics, and data can clutter your paper.
Remember that you must provide commentary, in your own words, for every piece of evidence you provide.
If, on the other hand, you don’t have enough evidence for your paper, you should start looking for more resources to support your claims, no matter how terrible you find the idea of doing more research.
5. “The ideas aren’t original.”
Although some research papers ask you to merely research a topic and explain it, the majority of assignments call on you to make some type of claim. In an argumentative essay, this means arguing for or against some aspect of your topic.
Some students fall into the trap of merely researching someone else’s argument and regurgitating it. However, the point of the paper is to come up with your own original idea.
To avoid this, spend some time thinking about your own view of the topic before reading other people’s opinions on it.
6. “The essay is too long/short.”
Some professors have strict word-count requirements that you must take into account when writing your paper. If you aren’t sure if your essay length is acceptable, ask your professor before turning it in.
If you’re faced with essay feedback that says you need to shorten your essay, try to focus your argument a bit further.
For example, instead of arguing that students should take a gap year after high school, narrow your argument to what they should do during that gap year, such as volunteer in another state. By narrowing your argument, your essay will shorten.
If your essay needs to be longer, it’s time to expand your thesis with another claim and possibly do more research. I know. Sorry.
7. “The essay lacks focus.”
Remember when I referred to the thesis statement as the guiding light of your essay? Well, it’s there to guide you for a reason.
Every piece of evidence and commentary in your essay should be supporting your thesis in some way. If it isn’t, then your essay will lack focus. Keep this in mind as you’re outlining your paper and when revising it.
Also beware of any evidence that might unintentionally contradict your argument. Know your thesis, and let it guide your writing.
8. “Expand/Elaborate on this idea.”
There are times when an idea or argument seems perfect in your head, but then your reader says it’s insufficient.
Don’t get discouraged. A lot of times this is just because you’re so close to your subject that it’s hard to see any holes in it. This is why revision is so important!
Between your first and second draft, you’ll have some time away from your essay. When you return to it, it’ll be easier to spot those holes.
It’s often as simple as needing another piece of evidence or a bit more commentary. Sometimes providing an example to your reader can clear up any confusion.
9. “Vague/Confusing/I don’t understand/What does this mean?”
Remember that most essays should be written with the idea that your reader doesn’t know anything about the subject. Sometimes you can fall into the habit of assuming the reader will understand.
For example, if you’re writing about cryptocurrency, it might seem to you that your reader should know what a blockchain is, but the reader might not.
However, you should make sure your introduction provides any necessary background info so that your reader isn’t confused later. That means explaining any history on your subject that’s pertinent to your argument.
Also be sure to explain any necessary vocabulary or jargon that might trip up your reader.
10. “Needs better/more reliable sources.”
This is a common problem that’s easy to fix with a bit of education on what constitutes a reliable and an unreliable source.
You want to search for and use materials from reputable sources, but how do you know whether a source is reputable? Look carefully at the author of the material and, if online, assess the website itself as well.
You want to find information from people who are respected in their fields. This means no crowd-sourced material like Wikipedia.
Also pay attention to the purpose of the source. If it’s written by a lobbying firm, then it will be one-sided. Some of the best information will be from recent academic journals. Even then, try to find information from multiple journals, not just one.
11. “The style/tone is inappropriate.”
The tone of your essay will change depending on the essay assignment and subject. This can be tricky for some students.
If you included personal anecdotes in the first draft of your argumentative essay, you will probably be well-served by removing them from the next draft.
12. “The introduction is flawed/confusing.”
This is not the place for examples, data, quotes, or paraphrasing. Keep it simple, or risk it becoming confusing.
13. “The conclusion is ineffective.”
The goal of the conclusion is to leave your reader without any lingering questions. Every conclusion paragraph should include a restatement of the thesis statement and a recap of the most important takeaways from your paper.
If there are any loose ends, now is the time to tie them up. The conclusion is not the place to present further evidence or another argument. It’s too late. Doing so now will potentially leave your reader with unanswered questions.
And if you’ve ever seen the show Lost, you understand that being left with questions is frustrating.
14. “The citations are incorrectly formatted.”
Formatting your citations and reference list can be a bit tricky for even the most seasoned writers, so don’t be discouraged if you need to revise them a bit in later drafts.
15. “There are too many errors.”
This can be a discouraging piece of essay feedback, but it’s also one of the easiest to fix. It’s important to have someone read and edit your draft, whether you struggle with grammar or consider yourself a word nerd. Everyone makes mistakes.
For a trusted, professional editor who will ensure your paper is spotless, check out Kibin. Kibin editors will not only fix any grammatical errors but also leave some great feedback so that you can improve your next draft and learn along the way.
That’s what feedback and revision are all about. Good luck!