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Feeling stuck with your thesis or writing assignment? You’re welcome to ask the Humanities Writing Center for help

Academic writing: it’s something that all students have to face. And it can be really quite difficult. The writing coaches at the Humanities Writing Center will therefore support you at every stage of your studies.

The Humanities Writing Center offers various services, but the one-on-one tutor sessions are the most popular, says writing coach Friso van Nimwegen. 'As a writing coach, I ask the questions that students usually haven't asked themselves,' he explains. 'Sometimes they haven't really thought about the answer to their research question, for example. When this becomes clear, all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.'

Students’ own answers

The Writing Center’s approach is largely based on the philosophy that students should find their own answers as far as possible. 'We don't dictate anything, but try to ask questions so that students arrive at their own insights,' says Friso. 'It’s also up to the students to say "this is what I’m struggling with". This means they ultimately know exactly where the problem lies and how to solve it.'

Rudolf Flinterman appreciated this way of working. Last year, he asked the Humanities Writing Center for help with his master's thesis in History. 'The narrative was already clear in my mind, but I couldn't find the words to make it clear to everyone else,' he explains. 'Asking questions made a big difference for me, because I could use this approach in the rest of my thesis. It meant that I constantly made changes in my text and the structure became much better.'

Not only for theses

Although, like Rudolf, many students ask the Humanities Writing Center for help with their thesis, Friso wants to emphasise that the Center will assist with all writing assignments. 'It doesn’t matter where you are in your study: everyone is welcome.' Rudolf would also like to encourage students to contact the Center at an earlier stage. It was his study coordinator who told him about its services. 'Before that, I’d never heard of it,' he admits. 'If I’d known about the Writing Center while I was doing my bachelor's, I would certainly have contacted the people there for some of my writing assignments.'

'Now, when I’m talking to people who say they’ve been working on their thesis for six months or a year, I immediately say that it can't do any harm to make an appointment with the Humanities Writing Center,' says Rudolf. 'In the end my grade was 7.5, and I think that without the Writing Center it might not have been more than 6.'

Golden tips

If you’re struggling with your thesis right now, there’s no need to panic: the Humanities Writing Center has two tips for the most common problems. Friso often sees students who have been working on their thesis for a long time. 'As well as the tutor sessions, we also organise workshops. There’s one for students who suffer from procrastination, for example. Some students find it difficult to concentrate, especially now that coronavirus means there aren’t always suitable study spaces.' The workshop aims to ensure that they keep on writing. And there are also Writing Weeks, where students work on their thesis in an online group. This allows students to take the final steps in a structured, motivating environment.

Another common mistake identified by Friso is that the thesis gets blown out of proportion in students’ minds. 'I can understand that the sheer number of words is intimidating; but even though the scale is different, the basic structure and writing principles are the same as for a paper. I try to make that clear. When you’ve reached this point in your studies, you have all the necessary skills and knowledge to write a good thesis.' Friso has a simple tip to make your thesis more manageable – and other writing assignments too: break it down into smaller pieces. 'Think in advance about how many words each part of the thesis must have. Simply doing this will make writing it a lot less intimidating.'

For more information, please visit the Humanities Writing Center website. There’s also a link here to the Sign-Up form, and information about the workshops and Writing Weeks that will be taking place next month.

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