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Responding to Feedback

Receiving feedback on your work is an exciting part of the research process. It allows you to interact with others, gain new perspectives, and hone your research and presentation skills. At the same time, it can be a nerve-racking experience and you might be thinking: What if they don’t like my work? What if I am asked a difficult question? What if someone is rude? There are several ways that you can prepare yourself for feedback, and we’ve outlined some strategies below.

Pro Tip #1: Be conscious of what you say and your body language as you answer questions. Stay positive and avoid saying “as I discussed previously” or using sarcasm, which can send a negative message to listeners. Be attentive and avoid acting bored or defensive.

Pro Tip #2: No matter how much you prepare, there might still be a question that you don’t know how to answer. If this happens, pause, collect your thoughts and take a deep breath. It’s ok if you don’t know the answer. If this is the case, you might respond with something like “That’s a great question and I’m not sure of the answer. Let me look into that and get back to you.”

Pro Tip #3: Responding to written feedback can be particularly difficult it is easy to interpret their words negatively without hearing a tone of voice. Meet with the person who delivered the feedback to discuss their thoughts. If you can’t do this, share the feedback with a friend or colleague for another perspective.

Pro Tip #4: It is easy to interpret some of the feedback you receive negatively. Instead of thinking of it as a shortcoming or something you did wrong, think about it as an opportunity to grow academically and professionally. If you receive feedback that you think is negative, try to reframe it. For example, “I can’t believe you haven’t looked at this resource!” can be reframed to be “This is a resource that is worth checking out.” 



Look through Joshua Miller's course "Using Questions to Foster Critical Thinking and Curiosity," available on Linkedin Learning. This course breaks down different types of questions that are asked and gives tips on how to respond. Understanding how audiences approach asking questions might help you as you prepare to answer questions. You might also look through Gemma Leigh Roberts's course "Giving and Receiving Feedback," which discusses different strategies to interpret and understand the feedback you receive.

Next Steps

  • Sign up for the Graduate College’s Research Live! competition, which challenges you to give a compelling talk about your work in three minutes or less. Participants receive feedback throughout the process to help them better hone their skills.
  • Make a list of questions that you frequently get about your work. Brainstorm some ways of how you might respond to these questions. Practice delivering your responses to friends.
  • If you plan to practice giving a presentation, create a rubric that your friends can fill out as they watch you. You might include parts of the presentation that you want extra feedback on (e.g. Did you use too much jargon? Were your slides clear? Were your jokes were funny).
  • Attend a presentation on campus and pay particular attention to the question and answer session at the end. What types of questions are being asked? Observe how the presenter responded to the questions (think not only about their responses but also their posture, demeanor, etc.).