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Feedback is essential for your academic development but it's not always easy to decipher!Use our guide to feedback vocabulary and what it means, to help you achieve those higher grades.Hover over the interactive buttons for quick tips or click them for more in-depth information.

Decipheringyour feedback

Poor use of literature: If each paragraph addresses one main point, it follows that at least one source of evidence should be referred to however...you must assess the reliability of your sources before you use them.

Lack of balance: It is important to take a stance but you MUST present evidence for alternative perspectives.

Have not addressed the question: Make sure you’ve answered the question you were asked – you are not writing everything you know about the topic! Keep referring back to the question and ask if you're answering the question or just upping your word count!

Lack of synthesis: To make a strong argument, you must combine evidence from a range of sources grouped together into common ideas or positions.

Editing and proofreading Editing and proofreading is not simply scanning your work for typos. You have to make sure it flows logically, is well balanced and demonstrates your academic ability. Use the checklist to review your work...

Work does not flow: Cohesion is an important feature of academic writing. It ensures that your writing 'sticks together' and makes it easier for your reader to follow the main ideas in your work.

Points are undeveloped: Try to make sure each paragraph only covers one aspect - you can't give your points the attention they need if you cover too many. Use the PEEL model to help you develop your points: Point: make your point clear in the first sentence. Evidence: support the point with evidence. Explanation: why is this point significant? Link: link the point to the next paragraph.

Too descriptive: It’s not enough to simply describe, you need to actively engage!

Poor structure:Think carefully about the order of your paragraphs. Your reader needs to be able to follow your train of thought, so think of your essay as stepping stones and lead your reader from one logical step to another to your reasonable and logical conclusion.

Incorrect/poor referencing: There are good reasons for referencing: * so you avoid being accused of plagiarism * so your reader can find and check your sources * so you can identify where you've taken ideas, data and perspectives from * so you think carefully about the reliability of the sources you're using

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Using your sources:Don't think of your references as 'full stops'!It's not enough to simply pop your source at the end of your sentence and assume your reader is familiar with it. You need to show:* why you've used it* its relevance to your argument* how significant it isDon't state something in your own words then use your source to repeat the exact same thing!Show your reader how the source supports or opposes the point you're making.

Remember:YOU MUST INCLUDE EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THE POINTS THAT YOU MAKE! The points you make could be 100% true and 100% relevant but without evidence they’re just your opinion.

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Unsubstantiated claims: An unsubstantiated claim lacks evidence - make sure you support each point you make with evidence.

Depth of reading: Justify the positions you put forward using the evidence as this demonstrates the scope of your reading. * use more than simply the material on the reading list * avoid relying on just one or two references * use a variety of sources

Is your source reliable? Test your sources against the CRAAP Test

Signposts and signalling words help your reader to understand the structure of your work and follow your argument.

Flow and cohesion:

Show how your different sources fit together to make a good argument.A lack of synthesis means your essay reads more like a 'shopping list' of sources than an argument - so discuss the debates, how they compare and contrast and the evidence they're based on to demonstrate your learning.

Poor structure:Use a linear structure so you don't jump backward and forwards and start general and move to the specific with more relevant/important information first.Hover over the fingers for steps to help you plan the structure of your assignments.

Make sure:

  • your paragraphs are in a logical order
  • you show the connections between the different paragraphs
  • each section has good beginning and ending sentences so your reader can easily understand the points you have made
  • you explain ideas clearly but concisely
  • avoid needlessly complicated words and phrases

Step 1: Break down the different parts of the question. Identify: * the exact topic you’re being asked to discuss * the way you’re expected to answer the question (eg. analyse or critically evaluate) * any limitations you’ve been given (eg. particular perspectives, theoretical approaches or type of source)

Step 2: Brainstorm what you know about the topic but don't worry if that's not a lot - your reading will help you identify additional points to cover. Use what you have brainstormed to formulate some search terms and/or research questions to guide your reading.

Step 3: Engage with your reading! Lots of students find academic reading dull and boring which makes it difficult. The best way to do it is to read actively: * add notes and questions in the margins or highlight important sections * think about whether or not you agree with the content * think about how it compares to your other reading

Step 4: Your research will help you identify the key points you need to cover to answer the question. Once you've got a list of your main points, group them together so that they fit into an general pattern - 'for and against', chronological, thematic, methodology etc. Then, on a mind map start to organise the points: * which are related? * which are counter-arguments?

Step 5: Finally, decide on a logical order for your points. Use 'post its' to summarise each point and physically move them around until you have the best flow. Think about how each point links to the next to guide your reader logically through your answer. STICK TO YOUR PLAN!! Referring back to your plan will help stop you going off on a tangent.

Importance of referencing:University of Sunderland takes plagiarism very seriously, although each case is judged individually and the consequences depend on the severity, punishment ranges from having your module mark capped at 40%, failing the module without the option to repeat it or even expulsion from uni.To avoid plagiarism, ensure your work is your own and where you use another author's information, ensure that you have cited and referenced the original source.

What is 'common knowledge'?Generally, refers to information that the average person knows - factual information which is accepted without requiring a source. E.g. There are four seasons in a year/Water freezes at 0oC. The difference between common knowledge and not common knowledge:Common knowledgePompeii was destroyed following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.NOT common knowledgeDestroyed in AD 79, Pompeii was a wealthy town with a population of approximately 11,000 (Bowman and Wilson, 2011).

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Always use Cite Them Rightto ensure that your references are in the correct format.Click the logo above to access.

Points are underdeveloped:Use this template to help you structure your paragraphs

Answer the question!It's easy to accidentally misread the question and lose marks by not answering the question you've actually been set.Keep referring back to your question and:* look at each paragraph - ask how it helps you to answer the question.* check for paragraphs which seem irrelevant - can you make their relevance clearer to your reader? If not, do they really need to be in there?* look at the first and last sentences of your paragraphs - link them to the original question.

Think about your reader:

  • What are you telling them - what is your overall argument?
  • Is the information in a coherent order?
  • What level of detail does your reader need?
  • Use signalling and signposting to help your reader through your work.

Hover over the images below for more information

Focus on the question you’ve been asked. Identify the exact topic you’re being asked to discuss and the way you’re expected to answer the question. Avoid getting side-tracked by consistently referring back to your question and asking yourself if the material you’re using is relevant and is adding something to your work.

Identify the exact topic you’re being asked to discuss. Most of the time, a topic is too broad to cover it all - so look for any limits you’ve been given. Possible limitations: * a particular viewpoint (eg. a social/economic perspective) * a particular theoretical approach * certain types of sources (eg. current research) Make sure you stick to the topic and the limitations - if you don’t answer the question, your marker can’t give you any marks!

Identify the exact way you’re expected to answer the question. If you’ve been asked to analyse or critically evaluate a topic, use the important debates and evidence to compare and contrast the different approaches. Don’t just describe them but look at their strengths and weaknesses and the evidence to support and contradict the positions.

Being critical:Being critical doesn’t mean being negative, it just means asking questions!It’s not enough to simply describe something, you need to show your marker that you’ve actively thought about the points you’re making.The best way to do this, is to ask questions!

Use the Plymouth Model of Critical Thinking to help you out.

These are just examples of the questions you could ask! As you're reading your sources, ask yourself how the key materials relate to each other (ie. how do they compare and contrast) - why, what evidence are they based on etc?

In academic work, there are very few issues that are 'black and white' so it's important that you avoid 'binary thinking'. As you research your topic, you will find opposing approaches and perspectives. Although at first you might find this confusing, your recognition of these differing viewpoints will give you a richer picture of a complex matter. Acknowledging that each topic is complex is an integral part of critical thinking.In your writing, you must demonstrate the complexity of the topic. It's easy to focus on 'for' and 'against' however, at this level, you must consider the alternative perspectives - this helps your work become more nuanced.

Right or wrong?

One of the aims of university is to develop your capability to look at issues from different perspectives. Your work is your chance to make a compelling case for your overall position by taking into account all relevant evidence, not just the evidence that fits your narrative.