by Melissa (Student Blogger: MA English Literature)
You’re at university because you’ve excelled in your studies. You’re used to receiving praise and awards and achievements for your work, and the occasional piece of criticism. At university level learning, criticism is the one of the most valuable pieces of knowledge you can hope to receive from your tutors because it is personalised and geared towards helping you achieve greater success in the future, as opposed to looking back on your past.
At university level, you can be proud enough to acknowledge how far your work has taken you in life, but as students, we also need to respect that the journey to academic excellence is never finished, and that the only real way to improve a piece of work is to eke out its flaws.
Yes, this can be a painful process. Perhaps you have spent weeks lamenting over your latest essay, and that you were proud of all the work you put in when you finally submitted it. You might be feeling utterly heartbroken with the mark you got back, stapled next to a heavy feedback sheet illuminating all the things you could have done better.
But chin up! Your tutor has taken the time to thoroughly read through your work and has dedicated themselves to helping you. The step-up to university is hard, and every stair is made from the help and criticism given to you by peers and tutors, so let’s think about how we can reach the top together!
Read through your criticism, twice. Read through each point carefully and apply it to your essay, make sure you understand what your tutor is asking you to do differently. This could be something as easy as reference errors, but when it comes to problems in theory you may have to consult your books for the context in which your error has been made.
If you’re still unsure about any of the feedback, or have any new ideas that you would like to suggest as a way of improvement, it can be a good idea to clarify these with your tutor during office hour.
Different methods of teaching suit different students, so you may find it helpful to consult a different tutor in your department if you are still experiencing difficulties. If you are part of the FASS department for example, you could sign up for a slot at the FASS writing space. If you feel your feedback has been inadequate you can receive more information on how to improve here. [FASS WRITING SPACE – http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/arts-and-social-sciences/study/study-support/]
It can be helpful to go through your old essays and their feedback before starting a new essay. This will remind you what to change next time you start the essay process, so keep your work safe and filed. This is why it’s important to collect your essays from the department, especially if you receive a grade that you are unhappy with. Leaving the material copy with your department won’t make it go away!
In case I haven’t been clear enough, do not blame your tutors for finding errors in your work, and don’t blame yourself either. Try your best to keep a positive attitude towards making your work the best it can be and eventually you will improve.