All writers benefit from feedback, but it’s not always easy to ask for. We often receive feedback after we submit a piece of writing, whether that feedback comes from an instructor, in-class peer review, or a dissertation advisor. But it’s a good idea to be proactive about seeking feedback at multiple stages of a writing project—at the brainstorming stage when you’re wrestling with the direction an idea might take, during drafting when you feel stuck or just want to know how something is coming together, and in later editing stages when you want to make sure your voice and meaning are clear. We recommend seeking feedback from multiple readers—including Writers Workshop consultants! Read on to learn more about why writers need feedback, when to ask for it, and how to write a request to help you get the most useful feedback for where you are in your project.
Why do writers need feedback?
- To gain an outside perspective that can enrich their existing ideas
- To deepen awareness of what they’re doing well and what could be improved
- To feel heard and responded to—community enhances learning and decreases isolation
- To better understand and meet the expectations of instructors and assignments
- To more effectively adopt the style and standards of the course and discipline
When should you ask for feedback?
- At multiple stages of the writing process
- You are ready / willing to confront it
- You feel stuck
- Far enough in advance of a deadline—you’re most likely to get the best feedback when your instructor has plenty of time to respond
The Nuts and Bolts of a Feedback Request
To get the most helpful feedback depending on where you are in your writing, compose a feedback request email to shape your reader’s attention and responses.
In a feedback request email, it’s often helpful to cover:
- What stage of the writing process you’re in—do you have an outline, a rough draft, a polished but not-quite-final draft? Have you already discussed the paper with your instructor or a friend?
- Any questions you have, as well as the type of feedback that might be most helpful to you—think about what your main concerns about the paper are. For example:
- “I’d love feedback on how to make my thesis stronger, and how I should go about structuring my paper overall.”
- “I’m not sure what I should include in my introduction and conclusion—I’m wondering if you might be able to help me with that?”
- “I feel like my second body paragraph isn’t working well, but I’m not sure why. I’d love to hear your feedback on how I might make it stronger.”
- “I’ve read through the assignment prompt carefully but am wondering if I’m doing okay at advancing my own argument, and what it takes to do that.”
- If possible, start by requesting a meeting, rather than requesting additional written feedback outright—usually, meetings are less time-intensive for instructors and more open-ended, which makes a request for a meeting a smaller ask than a direct request for written feedback. A meeting may also catalyze the feedback process, since you can ask for immediate clarification rather than having to write emails back and forth.
- Requests for feedback on assignments that have already been graded may need to use more mitigated, less direct language—try to put emphasis on your progress as a writer and your desire to do a good job/ succeed in the class, more than on the grade itself.
Sample Feedback Request Emails
For an in-progress paper:
“Dear Professor X,
I’ve been working on my [assignment/ paper name], and just wanted to make sure that I’m on the right track. I’ve talked through the paper with [a friend/ a Writers Workshop consultant] but would love your feedback on how I can make my thesis stronger, as well as how I might structure my paper overall. Is there any chance we could set up a meeting for sometime soon?
For an assignment that’s already been graded:
“Dear Professor X,
I hope this email finds you well. I’m writing to ask whether we might set up a meeting to discuss my [assignment name]. I’ve read through your feedback and just want to make sure that I understand what I might work on for future assignments. Would you be available to meet sometime in the next week?
Thanks so much,