Volume 2 Issue 3
By Dr Elizabeth Rushton and Dr Cyrus Nayeri
Rushton, E. & Nayeri, C. (2022) Editorial introduction: Volume 2, Issue 3. Routes 2(3): 133-135
April 2022 marks the second birthday of Routes and, with the publication of this third issue of volume two, through nearly sixty articles, essays and book reviews, authors have shared and contributed geographical ideas and perspectives with the community. This is why Routes exists: to provide a space for emerging geographical voices who are undergraduates or students in their final two years of school.
Each author who submits to Routes receives feedback from two peer reviewers and an editor in a process called ‘blind peer review’, where the peer reviewers, editor and author do not know anything about each other (for more about this see our website). In this editorial we would like to reflect on the ways in which Routes has begun to explore authors’ experience of the feedback they receive when they submit to and publish with Routes. In particular, we are interested in understanding what elements of feedback motivate and encourage authors to revise and resubmit their work, sometimes through multiple rounds of revision. To help us understand authors’ perspectives we carried out a series of interviews with undergraduate authors (following ethical approval from King’s College London). The thoughts and reflections that we share here are drawn from our emerging thinking based upon both these interviews and the written feedback we have received from authors over the past 18 months, and we shared some of our early thinking last year at the GA 2021 conference (Nayeri & Rushton, 2021). Here, we outline three elements that contribute to an experience of feedback that is grounded in compassion and care which we suggest encourages authors to act upon the feedback they receive.
Feedback that attends to emotions. Submitting work to a journal and moving through the process of peer review and publication includes a range of emotions, particularly when receiving and responding to feedback. Authors described the anticipation, and in some cases the nervousness and/or excitement, they felt when they read through the feedback for the first time. Authors described how those involved in providing or communicating feedback were able to show ‘care’ and ‘friendliness’ through their written feedback and that when they were able to acknowledge that emotions might be at play, this was seen as supportive. Previous research has acknowledged the importance of praise, improvement and encouragement as part of a sequence of feedback (Rooney, 2006) and the importance of fostering student agency (Francis et al., 2019). We suggest that the acknowledgement of the emotions and feelings that feedback creates for the author is an important part of ensuring that feedback is effective. For example, we work with peer reviewers and editors to ensure that we minimise the possible ‘jarring’ effect of feedback, so that the focus of the feedback is on how this feedback will help the author to develop their work rather than on what the author should have done differently. When we return feedback from peer reviewers and editors to authors, we explicitly say to authors that they should not feel ‘discouraged’ by detailed feedback, that this represents engagement with their work.
Feedback that is specific to the work. Authors appreciated feedback that is specific and that shows and demonstrates how to develop their writing and includes examples of strengths in their work so that the feedback is less likely to ‘demoralise’ the author. This specificity and clarity provided authors with guidance of what to change and also gave encouragement to engage in the work necessary to make revise their work, as one author said:
I think it is the fact the marker has put a lot of effort into improving your essay, and that is clear because of the specificity of the comments and the guidance, they will go through every point and once they break it down like that, rather than having one bit of feedback, one comment that sums up the whole thing.
Here, the effort of the peer reviewer has been acknowledged by the author and, the author attributes the aim of the peer reviewer as one of supporting them to ‘improve’ their essay. Authors also found receiving two sets of feedback gave them greater confidence when making changes to their work for example, this author reflected:
I actually found it really useful to have two sets [of feedback] … there were quite a few things where both reviewers would pick up and suggest similar corrections or ideas which was encouraging that two different people were responding in the same way, that gave me some confidence that this was something to definitely look at again.
Feedback that is specific to the person. Authors shared how they were encouraged by feedback which demonstrated an interest and awareness of the author beyond this individual piece of work. For example, one author shared:
It was quite encouraging because one of them said, ‘there is clearly a future in academia’ and I hadn’t ever really thought about doing something further, bar my degree…and it made me think, ‘oh, maybe I could look into the topic more’ and they were like ‘you clearly have a passion for the subject’ and that made me think, it was really a chance for more like self-reflection whereas university it is more ‘did I meet the grade?’.
Authors want different things from feedback when they submit to Routes. We suggest feedback that acknowledges emotions, provides specific suggestions for the development of the work and, gives encouragement of the author has the potential to support a range of needs. We understand that not every author will want to revise their work and develop it through to publication. For example, when some authors receive feedback, they share that although they do not have the time to revise and resubmit this piece of work, they have found the feedback helpful, they will take this guidance forward into subsequent work and that they enjoyed the experience. For us at Routes, this is as positive an outcome as those submissions which result in a published piece, as our aim is to enable and encourage emerging voices in geography at every stage.
We recognise with gratitude the trust that authors place in Routes when they share their work with us. We extend our sincere thanks to our community of peer reviewers, editors and advisers who give of their time and expertise in a voluntary capacity. Together, through the process of feedback, Routes continues to provide a space for emerging and established geographical voices to be in a space of dialogue. As we look forward to the continued development of Routes, we encourage you to get in touch and share your ideas and perspectives so that Routes can continue to be a space which flourishes.
Francis, R. A., Millington, J. D., & Cederlöf, G. (2019). Undergraduate student perceptions of assessment and feedback practice: fostering agency and dialogue. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 43(4), 468-485.
Nayeri, C. & Rushton, E.A.C. (2021). Compassionate feedback: fostering academic progress through care. Presentation at the Geographical Associate Annual Conference, online, April 2021.
Rooney, R. (2006). Effective feedback as a focus for CPD with a developing geography department. Teaching Geography, 31, 84–86.
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