Foto: Boyka Todorova

Let academic English be your BFF and become a Pro in it!

There is a writing centre in the HSL-building for helping with academic English required in documents or assignments during our two semesters. It has expanded since its start two years ago, but still serves only HSL faculty students. The expansion (from one person to four) shows the huge success of such a helpful service. However, other faculties are still in need of such a centre and should consider creating their own for their students and staff.

Text: Anežka Prosecká and Johanna Schirra

The lucky students of humanities, social studies, etc., have a place to go to if they are struggling with their English writing skills. Here they’ll find Cathinka, a kind woman, who is ready to provide help with academic writing. When students and employees hand in their texts to her she can read them through thoroughly and give individual advice in person. Given enough time, she can read anything from short assignments to larger chapters of a thesis. Master students or academic staff can arrange meetings via e-mail or knock on her door any time, though there are recommended hours (see fact box). Since Cathinka is consulted quite often – especially during exam periods – the faculty announced another position which was recently filled by another woman – Torhild. For these two women, the writing centre represents a full-time job and as expected, exam time is always the busiest time. So there is big recommendation for sending required texts on time or better, before that period.

Basic mistakes appear as an example of not so careful self-proof-reading. In fact, the main reason for underrated grades for particular assignments is a lack of available means of idea expression. Considering the better learning outcome when people learn how to help themselves by improving their skills, the centre does not provide proof-reading. Therefore, the assistant will not correct the mistakes but instead will give advice on how to avoid them. (Find basic practical tips below)

This service is provided for MA and PhD students as well as academic employees. The Norwegian bachelor students are able to get similar help from Skriveverkstedet but unfortunately this writing centre will not be able to help people from other faculties besides HSL. However, others might get inspired and do little lobbying toward the creation of their own faculty writing centres. Meanwhile they can get some useful advice in recommended sources (see fact box).

12 tips from Cathinka on how to succeed with academic writing

  1. Read the essay question(s) carefully: what are they asking you to do?
  2. If you’re not certain about how to understand the essay question(s), clarify how you interpret/understand the question(s)/assignment in your introduction.
  3. Think through – and write down – everything you (think you) know about the topic for discussion. You will often realise that you know far more than you think. Almost as often you’ll realise that what you «know» is based on more or less (sub)conscious prejudices.
  4. Write an outline. This is a good way to organise your ideas and it makes it easier to structure your text.
  5. The structure is the skeleton of your text. It holds the various elements (paragraphs/chapters) together. The structure of the text does not have to reflect the writing process. Sometimes it may be more practical to start with the body of the text and write the introduction towards the end. See what works best for you.
  6. An academic paper should always consist of an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion/summary.
  7. Use sub-headings to prepare the reader for what comes next. This makes the text easier to follow. Stick to the case and be critical of your own text. Try to put yourself in the reader’s position.
  8. Define and explain difficult terminology. This way you show the reader that you understand the terminology you’re using and that you know how to apply it, and you make it easier for an outsider to follow your text.
  9. Always give credit to your sources by way of references and quotations (not copying)! Copying others without quotation marks and references is plagiarism and is regarded as cheating. It may have serious consequences for your further studies at UiT.
  10. The first impression counts! Before you submit your paper/thesis, read through it carefully and make sure that you have complete sentences, that you’re consistent with your use of font and line spacing. Double check that your front page is informative and neat.
  11. Don’t be afraid to delete paragraphs or sentences that contain unnecessary information or repetitions. Sometimes you have to kill your darlings! Avoid long, complicated sentences. Use full stops frequently.
  12. Swap your text with a fellow student before submitting and let others read and comment on your text. It may also be useful to discuss the essay topic with fellow students along the way.

 

Contact: cathinka.d.hambro@uit.no + Torhild

Location: SVHUM A1026

Web: http://uit.no/hsl/writingcentre (will be updated soon)

See also: http://sokogskriv.no/english/ and http://site.uit.no/skriveverksted/

Opening hours Autumn 2015:

Tuesday 12.15 – 14:00 (Cathinka; SVHUM A1026)

Wednesday 13.15 – 15.00 (Torhild; place to be announced shortly)