How to Give Critical Feedback
on a Colleague's Paper
last update: 12 January 2007

by Paul of Tarsus & Co.,
with Sheila E. McGinn
  1. When reading the paper, shape your attitude to seek what you can learn from it: "As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience" (Col 3:12).
  2. Make as clear and fair a report of the thesis and evidence as you can:  ". . . let us hold fast to what we have attained"(Phil 3:16).
  3. Accentuate the positive:  ". . . whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Phil 4:8).  Begin the review by summarizing whatever substantive and methodological advances you see in this study.
  4. You do not need to like the author nor what the person says, but you must be polite:  ". . . get rid of such things as anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth (Col 3: 8).
  5. When there are factual errors, correct them, but "let your gentleness be known to everyone" (Phil 4:5).  Remember, it might have been you a few weeks ago.
  6. Summarize the limitations of the study, giving positive and concrete suggestions for improvement.
  7. Mention the interesting questions it raises for further research and discussion.  As Paul said, ". . . straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal . . . ." (Phil 3:13-14).

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