What “helps”?

Here’s something else I’d like to know about. In my evaluations, I often ask students what “helped most.” I usually give them a list of choices, such as conferences with me, peer review, written comments from me, workshops, etc. Students gladly rank these choices, and I take their rankings to heart. But at the same time, “what helps” is pretty vague. Helps to do what? To finish a paper? To come up with ideas? To get a point across? To make a particular grade on a paper?

Okay, so here’s the question. Think back on a particular experience when you wanted to say to someone who had read and responded on your writing, or “fixed” it in some way, “Thanks, that really helped.”

First, what did the person do? And second, what was the “help”? Why do you think whatever this person did really “helped”?

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