Tutor comments on essays

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1. Tutor comments written on your essay script are the most detailed response you are likely to receive on what you have produced. You should take the trouble to read these comments carefully, and learn from them as much as you can.

2. Where there is no comment on the script you can usually assume that your argument is to the point. Tutors often find it difficult to comment on an argument which is relevant and well articulated. Ticks on the script are usually a sign that your writing is dealing with the issues required.

3. If you are answering the question successfully there may not be much for the tutor to say, except to offer encouragement and suggestions for further development at the end of the essay. [This however should not be taken as an endorsement of lazy script-marking.]

4. Your tutor may correct the first instance of a common mistake, then ignore subsequent occurrences. This often happens with spelling problems, for instance. You should take careful note, and try to learn the correct form.

5. Be sure to read the tutor’s comments at the end of the script. Don’t just check the grade awarded to your work. The comments represent valuable feedback and response to what you have written.

6. A comment such as ‘What does this mean?’ usually suggests ‘Your argument is not very clear at this point of the essay’ or ‘You are not showing the relevance of this topic to the question’.

7. The tutor may use square brackets [these] to indicate those parts of your argument which are not really necessary – as in this example.

… just as Mansfield Park [by the novelist Jane Austen] is a novel which is concerned with the theme of ‘improvement’

8. If the tutor invites you to discuss a particular issue in person, then take up the offer. But don’t abuse this arrangement. Tutors can easily become irritated by students ‘seeking further clarification’ too frequently.

9. Be academically modest. Be prepared to learn from your mistakes. Put into practice those suggestions made by the tutor. After all, they are made for your benefit, not for the convenience of the tutor.

10. The most noticeable advances in essay-writing skills are usually made by those students who take notice of each new suggestion offered for improvement. They are also likely to incorporate these ideas on a permanent basis. That is, once a new strategy or technique is adopted it becomes a skill which is used regularly. Subsequent suggestions for improvement are also incorporated in the same way.

11. Conversely (and not surprisingly) those students who make the least improvement in their work are those who seem to disregard tutor comments. They require the same notes of ‘advice for improvement’ with each successive essay. Do yourself a favour – take notice of your tutor’s comments.

12. See the selection of marked essays for examples of typical tutor comments.

© Roy Johnson 2003

Writing skills links

tutor comments Tutorials, guides, and books, on writing skills

Red button Writing skills – a bibliography

Red button Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook

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