How to Ship Your Research for Feedback

To learn whether your work is publishable, there’s no escaping the need to ship it.1

Who your research is for will determine what it means to publish it.2 But even when you have the same who, “shipping” can take either of two primary forms.

These forms depend on your goal in shipping a particular project—in particular, whether you’re shipping (1) for feedback or (2) for distribution.

Shipping for Feedback

One way to ship a project is to ship it for feedback. This is “soft shipping.”

It’s shipping because you’re making your work available to one or more people besides yourself. But it’s “soft” because of the goal you have in shipping.

You’re wanting feedback that you can use to improve your work. In doing so, you’re recognizing, by definition, that the work that you’re shipping isn’t done.

So, there’s some additional tentativeness in shipping for feedback that isn’t as present when you’re shipping for distribution.

Some good examples of shipping for feedback include, if you’re a student, submitting your work to your professor. It can also include things like

  • sending your work to peers for an informal review or
  • presenting your work at conferences where there’s opportunity for feedback to you from a respondent, an audience, or both.

Feedback from Whom?

The key is that you ideally want to ship for feedback to folks who have a few specific characteristics, like

  • Knowledgeability. They don’t have to be an expert in your particular topic. But they have to have enough related knowledge to provide feedback.
  • Execution. If someone agrees to give you feedback or attends a conference session you’re presenting in, it’s best if they actually convey their feedback to you. It doesn’t much help you to improve your work if folks evaluate it but then don’t express their evaluations to you.
  • Honesty. It’s nice to hear your work is great. But that’s not why you ship for feedback. You ship for feedback to get honest input on what you might be missing. So, you need to ship to folks who are willing to tell you that.
  • Good-will. This is a balancing element to honesty. You want folks who will tell you what they honestly think. But you probably aren’t too excited about having your work trolled.

Conclusion

The more of these kinds of characteristics you can find, the better your feedback is likely to be.

At the same time, you might not always be able to find all of these characteristics in folks to whom you might ship for feedback. But even if some are lacking, take that feedback with the corresponding amount of salt, use it for what it’s worth, and keep pressing forward.


  1. Header image provided by Bench Accounting

  2. Here, I’m particularly playing off of and adapting the discussion of Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t (New York: HarperBusiness, 2001), 41–64. 

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