This week’s post from the Skills Team will discuss the six most frequently used in-text comments in feedback. This is structured around an overview of the comments you may receive, what these can mean and what you need to do. Remember to check out their blog too.


Problems with your evidence

Comment(s):

Ref?
Source needed
Where is your evidence?
Evidence

What it can mean:

You have made a statement that you have not backed up with evidence from your reading. It could also be an issue with your referencing that makes it unclear where the evidence comes from or which bit of your sentence it applies to (see: Citing right or a right sight?).

What you need to do:

Never make a statement that you do not support with a citation. You have to show where you read the information that led you to make the point you did. Usually, this will be an academic journal, book, official document or reputable webpage. Always make your references clear.


Grammatical and structural issues

Comment:

Poor sentence structure

What it can mean:

There is something wrong with the grammar in your sentence.

What you need to do:

Look at the Skills Team grammar resource (there are pages on structure) and try to identify what aspect of sentence structure you are struggling with. You can use the quizzes to test your understanding. Adjusting the grammar checking settings in Microsoft Word to look for ‘grammar & style’ will also spot some additional errors – just make sure you don’t rely on it!


Comment:

What do you mean?

What it can mean:

Your sentence/paragraph is poorly structured and it is difficult to follow your argument
There is ambiguity in your writing and it can be interpreted in many different ways
What you’ve written here is generally unclear
You need more evidence or examples to make your argument clear

What you need to do:

This is usually a case of rewriting your sentence or paragraph. This kind of comment indicates that your writing isn’t clear enough for the reader. It is likely that you need to rephrase it to make it clear. If it is a complicated argument or concept, demonstrating an example, application or case study can further make your point and help the reader understand what you meant. Sometimes this can phrase can be used where there is ambiguity in the meaning of a word. In this case you may need to define or outline your use of it.


Issues with your argument

Comment(s):

Really?

!!!

What it can mean:

Your argument may be unclear
Your argument may be overstated, too general or lack evidence
Your statement is wrong and cannot be evidenced.

What you need to do:

You need to justify the point you have made – back it up with some evidence. If you cannot find such evidence, rethink this section of your essay. If you have evidence in your argument, make sure you have explained it clearly, avoiding any sweeping generalisaiton. Use caution in your argument and ensure it cannot be misinterpreted.


Comment:

Be more specific

What it can mean:

Your argument/example/case is too general
Your argument needs more depth, context or precision
Your argument is too shallow for the level you are writing at 

What you need to do:

You need to reflect on the level you are writing for and make sure you are addressing the question with enough depth and detail. Consider if you are relating your discussion to the topic in enough detail. Most often this is just an issue of providing more detailed examples and ensuring there is no ambiguitiy in your statements.


Non-specific advice

Comment(s):

?

??

What it can mean:

Where to start. A lot of the time you need to look at the context in where this comment appears. It could be any of the above, but it is more likely to refer to ‘what do you mean?’ or ‘really?’.

What you need to do:

Check to make sure your writing cannot be misinterpreted and check your grammar, structure and expression to see if it is the style, order or phrasing of your argument lead this astray. It could even be the case of a spelling mistake or type.