Tips Wellbeing

How to Deal with Academic Criticism?

Criticism is often a hard pill to swallow. Many students can find criticism from teachers, mentors or even fellow students discouraging and even demoralizing. However, during the IB, receiving criticism on your academic work is inevitable and essential to your growth as a student. 

I’ve gotten a lot of feedback (both good and bad) from teachers, mentors and classmates on my IAs, EEs and even other school based assessments. For example, when I did my EE in Language and Literature, I received a lot of criticism from my EE supervisor. She told me to reorganize my EE, to restructure my arguments, and to review my evidence. On top of that, she asked me to rewrite certain paragraphs to improve cohesion and clarity.

At first, I found her feedback overwhelming. However, after reading and processing her comments, I realized her insight was the key to improving my work. So yes, criticism may hurt in the short term, but it will ultimately benefit you! Now, here some tips I have to help you accept and utilize criticism: 

Realize that the comments are NOT about YOU! It’s about your WORK.

I think the main reason why students are discouraged by negative feedback is because they instantly correlate it with their intelligence or capability in this subject. Though it is normal to feel slightly hurt, note that the criticism is about your WORK. It is not about YOU. Hence, think of your current draft as a springboard to unlock its true potential.

See your work from the perspective of the critique. 

We all have our own perspective on what counts as an amazing piece of work. Thus, while reading comments of the critique, try to imagine their thought process. Then, examine why they gave you a particular comment. 

For example, my supervisor suggested rewriting a specific paragraph. With this, I reread the paragraph several times. I then noted that the ideas expressed in the paragraph were unclear. With this, I was able to address the issue. Hopefully switching perspectives will help you understand what to do next to improve your work. 

COMMUNICATE with the critique. 

Communication is the key to any relationship. Thus, if you are confused about a certain comment or if you need more guidance, try to set up a meeting with the person who critiqued your work.

Prior to the meeting, make sure to go through your work and the critique’s comments again. You can note down all of your questions and clarifications so that you may discuss this during your meeting. This will also ensure that you are able to address all of your concerns during the meeting. 

Create a plan for improvement.

After speaking to the critique, you should have an idea on how to enhance your work. With this, you can begin creating a plan for improvement. Although, everyone has their own way of editing their work.

I decided to write down everything I need to do step by step. Then, using google docs, I highlighted and commented on the paragraphs that needed editing. 

This strategy made it easier for me to identify which parts of my paper I needed to revise. It also made it easier for me to divide the task of editing my paper, which made it more manageable. I would focus on improving my introduction first. Then, I would move on to editing the body paragraphs and eventually the conclusion.

Ultimately, when it comes to creating your plan for improving your EE, I highly suggest taking your time to edit and revise your work. This will help you ensure each part of your EE is clear, cohesive and connected to your research question.

Ask for more comments and feedback. 

Although this may still be difficult for some, keep tip #1 in mind. Most importantly, remember that asking for more feedback will allow you to write a stronger paper and grow as a person. 

With all that said, hang in there. Good luck!


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