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  • Natalie B.

The Struggles of Receiving Feeback

One of the main parts of the PhD process is receiving feedback on your work. The feedback you receive will typically come from your supervisors, and it will be continuous. However, you may also receive input from other academic work you want to publish. Having our work reviewed and revised is essential. As a researcher, you want to have other professionals in your field, engaging with your research so you can truly produce your best work. No one sets out to write something uninteresting or poorly written. However, that does not make feedback any easier to receive.


As a second-year PhD student, I still feel anxious with anticipation about what comments my supervisors may have for me before our meetings. The work you produce for your PhD will be precious to you. You will spend 3 to 4 years writing your thesis. Therefore, having anyone critique it may feel like a personal attack. Whatever suggestions or comments you are given, know that it is not meant to be personal.


The reason your supervisors are even there is to help you write the best thesis you can. There are still moments when I feel overwhelmed by the number of comments or suggestions my supervisors have proposed for me, so I came up with a plan for myself. After a meeting, I read through their comments, type up my meeting notes, and then I will put the feedback aside for a few days while I work on something else. This gives me time to mentally digest their feedback. Once I have thought through their suggestions, I will reopen my notes and dive back into the revisions.


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Another reason I find getting feedback challenging is that I have to apply those suggestions into my work. For my previous degrees, when I finished an assignment, I would get feedback after I turned in my assignment. However, I would normally skim-through the feedback section to see what the grade was because that is what I truly cared about. I never was asked to apply the input and complete the assignment again. During your PhD, you are continually being asked to try the assignment again until it is perfect. It is a different way of learning that many people, myself included, have to get used too.


I think learning to receive feedback will always be a skill I have to work on. However, one antidote my supervisor said about feedback was to think about having a lot of comments on a page as a good thing. It means the person reviewing your work really engaged with the piece. Not having as many comments might mean the reviewer did not engage with the work as much. I thought this way of looking at feedback was interesting because it takes away the idea that if you have a lot of comments on your page, you must have done something wrong. So next time you get feedback, think of it as a good way to improve and not that you are failing at this PhD thing, I promise you aren’t.


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