Whether you\u2019re teaching or just helping a friend, offering feedback on a college paper can be intimidating if you\u2019ve not done it before. We do, though, have a few tips to share on this subject.\nContent vs. Quality of Writing\nThere are two things you may want to offer feedback on when reading a college paper:\n\n \tThe content of the paper itself\n \tHow well it is written\n\nThe feedback you provide will depend on the topic and type of essay. But there are some things you could comment on for any paper, including:\n\n \tSpelling, grammar, and punctuation errors\n \tThe overall structure and readability of the paper\n \tAcademic vocabulary and writing style\n \tFactual inaccuracies or ambiguities\n \tWhether the author provides evidence for their arguments\n \tClarity and consistency of referencing\n\nIdeally, you\u2019ll be able to provide feedback on all of these. However, if you\u2019re simply reading the first draft of a paper to help a friend, you may want to check what kind of feedback they want.\n\nTry, too, to provide a balance of positive and negative feedback. It\u2019s just as important to note something that is well written as something that needs clarifying. After all, if the author sees nothing but negative comments, they could get discouraged and stop caring.\nComments in Margins vs. In-Depth Feedback\nOne way of leaving feedback is to make notes in the margins (either on paper or using the comment function in Microsoft Word, depending on how you are reading it). These should be short notes related to a specific issue (e.g., to highlight a misspelled word or a missing citation).\n\n[caption id="attachment_5734" align="aligncenter" width="473"] Marginal feedback.[\/caption]\n\nTry not to leave too many comments in the margins, though. If there is a recurring problem (e.g., consistently misspelling a word), don\u2019t comment on it every time. Instead, leave a comment noting the pattern of errors. This highlights the issue without overwhelming the reader.\n\nYou may also want to provide some overall feedback at the end of the paper. Ideally, this in-depth feedback should:\n\n \tStart positive (e.g., This is a well-researched, well-organized paper\u2026)\n \tFocus on one or two major issues rather than repeating everything you have commented on in the margins (if there are too many big problems to pick one or two, you may want to speak to the author in person instead)\n \tProvide concrete criticism on specific problems, including page numbers where relevant, not just general criticisms (e.g., You are missing citations in section three\u2026 rather than The referencing in this paper is not very good\u2026)\n \tEnd by highlighting areas that could be improved and potential solutions\n\nIf you are offering feedback on an essay-in-progress, focus on issues that could be improved in the paper at hand. If you are marking a final draft, however, you may want to offer advice on strengths and weaknesses that the author can keep in mind for the next paper they write.\nMarking Criteria\nFinally, if you\u2019re teaching on a college course \u2013 or even just marking papers \u2013 you should have access to the marking criteria. These will be set by the school or whoever is teaching the class. More importantly, though, they will set out expectations for what a good paper should do in detail.\n\nThese criteria are most useful when grading a paper, but they can also be helpful if you\u2019re simply giving feedback. They can be useful when planning a paper, too, so they\u2019re worth asking about even if you\u2019re writing an essay rather than offering feedback! If you\u2019re not sure where to find the marking criteria for your course, check your school\u2019s website or ask your professor.