Scholarly Writing and Feedback

The best scholarly writing is precise and clear, impersonal and scientific in tone, and consistent in its usage of punctuation, grammar, and spelling.  Though not all scholarly writing conforms to “a report on the current state of a field,” it always reveals to some extent the interests and questions that are currently relevant to a specific community of inquiry.  This is important to understand for students of any particular subject because the questions and concerns that are relevant to currently constituted communities of inquiry are the ones that they will be addressing when they pursue their own research.  Lastly, scholarly writing is for an academic audience of specialists.  Though there might be some general interest scholarly writing that is published for a lay audience, this does not constitute the bulk of what is published.  The vast majority of scholarlship is produced for an audience that wishes to make use of it as the building blocks for a continuing conversation about what is known of and about a particular subject or question.


The importance of scholarly writing is that it is, in many cases, peer-reviewed by a community of subject experts.  That means that the information found within scholarly, peer-reviewed articles can be considered high quality, approved by the best minds working on such problems and questions.  This feature of scholarly writing for academic audiences is also important because it allows scholarly writing to be a source of the latest scientifitc information on any subject you could care to mention.  And finally, scholarly writing, when peer-reviewed, plays a substantial role in the creation of new knowledge.  Without new knowledge, we cannot make significant progress on answering the questions and solving the problems that have presented themselves in past scholarship.  For all of these reasons and more, scholarly writing is vital to the success of the pursuit of knowledge in any domain.


My previous experience with scholarly writing feedback has been excellent.  I have come to expect scholarly writing feedback to be positive and avoid negativity, to let me know what works and what doesn’t about my writing in terms of mechanics and style, subject matter, and argumentation, and to provide suggestions for further improvement.  I don’t always get all three of these things in equal amounts, but I expect at least some element of each to be present in good feedback.  Lastly, I have learned from previous research that multimodal approaches to feedback, such as using audio instead of written comments, can positively change the way that feedback usefulness is perceived (Leibold & Schwarz, 2015; Walter, Ortbach, & Niehaves, 2015).


There are three ways in which one might incorporate scholarly writing feedback into their own work.  The first of these ways is to read for specific advice about errors and to read for comprehension of the criticisms being made.  Orsmond and Merry (2011) mention that this is something that students and their instructors attempt to do, oftentimes without success and sometimes because of the emotional impact of the feedback on the students’ perceptions of the feedback.  The second way in which one might approach scholarly writing feedback is to ignore the emotional responses one might have to the feedback and to open a dialogue with the feedback giver to clarify and deepen the learning that can be a powerful feature of such formative feedback (Dowden, Pittaway, Yost, & McCarthy, 2015).  The third and final way that one might incorporate scholarly writing feedback is to ask the feedback giver for specific models or rubrics for assignments so that the feedback given by the instructor is more readily understood by students (Orsmond & Merry, 2011).


The feedback relationship can be used in many different ways, some of which are outlined in the following list.  One may use scholarly writing feedback to: (a) expand one’s personal knowledge of a field or subject, (b) discover one’s academic persona—an authentic voice that is both authoritative and impersonal, (c) improve grammar and spelling throughout one‘s written work, (d) work out complicated arguments with the help of an experienced researcher—the instructor, (e) and solitic specific advice on style and tone in writing.

All of these are worthy uses of scholarly writing feedback, but whatever moves the student toward the goal of being a competent researcher and effective writer will be worth the effort.


Personal lessons I have learned about scholarly writing include the following: (a) start at the beginning of your piece so that you know where you are going, (b) make an outline of where you’re headed so you don’t wander too far from your main line of argument, (c) take the writing one step at a time with frequent breaks for refreshment, (d) write from your own understanding of the subject and you will avoid much unintentional plagiarism, (e) paraphrase—don’t quote, (f) when you must quote, be sparing in your use of another’s words, (g) and finally, use your conclusion for something other than a summation of what has already been written-–tie up loose ends and push your argument a bit further!

With these lessons learned from researches on feedback, any student can make effective use of scholarly writing feedback and succeed at becoming the best academic researcher that they can be.  Certainly more research into these areas would be helpful, especially considering the best type of feedback to give and how to give it, but with current knowledge alone junior researchers should be able to make some headway in their quests to become scholarly writing experts.


Dowden, T., Pittaway, S., Yost, H., & McCarthy, R. (2013). Students’ perceptions of written feedback in teacher education: ideally feedback is a continuing two-way communication that encourages progress. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 38(3), 349–362. doi: 10.1080/02602938.2011.632676

Leibold, N., & Schwarz, L. M. (2015). The art of giving online feedback. Journal of Effective Teaching, 15(1), 34-46.  Retrieved from

Orsmond, P., & Merry, S. (2011). Feedback alignment: effective and ineffective links between tutors’ and students’ understanding of coursework feedback. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 36(2), 125–136. Retrieved from:

Walter, N., Ortbach, K., & Niehaves, B. (2015). Designing electronic feedback – Analyzing the effects of social presence on perceived feedback usefulness. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 76, 1-11. doi:10.1016/j.ijhcs.2014.12.001

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