Providing effective written feedback is an important aspect of the learning process, yet very little empirical research has attempted to address the psychology of receiving tutor feedback. As a consequence, this remains an extremely under-researched area. This study aimed to find out whether participants' subjective perceptions of feedback from tutors differed from the objective reality of the feedback received. Two separate strands of data (qualitative and quantitative) were collected simultaneously using a mixed-methods design. Strand 1 data were collected from a cross-sectional opportunity sample of undergraduate and postgraduate students from UK universities. Nine participants (seven females; two males) were interviewed about the emotional aspects of receiving feedback. Each participant provided an extract from the tutor feedback and his or her perception of the comment. Strand 2 data were collected from a second group of 24 participants (20 females; 4 males) and results were compared to perceptions of feedback comments provided at strand 1. Findings suggest that the nature of initial comments affects the way in which students approach the remainder of their feedback. In order for feedback to make sense to the student, it needs to be specific and explicit as to the reasons why change needs to take place. When feedback is perceived as positive, it can boost self-esteem and increase motivation.