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The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) has implemented a new scheme this year aimed at helping students across the faculty with their academic writing. The FASS Academic Writing Workshop allows undergraduate and postgraduate students studying across the faculty to seek advice and solutions to any writing problems they may be having with their coursework or dissertations.
Students can book hour-long appointments with a trained writing tutor, most of whom are second or third year PhD students. Students can use this hour to discuss any aspect of their academic writing.
Harris Kaloudis, one of the writing tutors involved with the workshop, told SCAN: “The FASS Writing Space is open every week (on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays) for students to discuss ways of improving their academic writing. We have a team of Writing Mentors who can help them improve the style and structure of their essays and coursework. For more details and to book a slot, students can go to the FASS Effective Learning Moodle page.”
When asked to give some examples of issues which students can seek help for, Kaloudis told SCAN; “Undergraduates and postgraduates can use the workshop to discuss any questions, issues or concerns they have about academic writing; for example, organising their preparatory work for an essay, finding ways of improving their writing, how to structure an essay, gaining in confidence or feeling less stressed about writing and thinking through the feedback they’ve received on coursework and essays.”
Kaloudis acknowledged the fact that academic writing can be daunting to students who are new to it; “Academic study can be complex and difficult because it is a new social situation that can seem bewildering at the beginning and also because it can be emotionally charged.
“Students feel that they are evaluated and judged and ranked and the expectations of academic success can be very stressful.”
“Sometimes issues around academic writing do not have to do with the knowledge and abilities of the students but with the student being familiar with the conventions and rules of academic writing or with dealing with the emotions that the writing process generates.”
“As an example, a lot of students are very critical of their own writing and they self-censor excessively when they write,” Kaloudis added. “Academic writing tutors understand this and do not present themselves as experts to students, but rather they draw on their experiences of writing to discuss these issues with the students and help the students to find their own solutions to any issues they feel they have. Tutors are happy to talk about their own difficulties with writing which can be quite reassuring for students as they can see that finding writing difficult is normal and that there are ways of becoming better at it.”
Kaloudis also shared with SCAN the feedback the tutors have received so far, and their hopes for the continuing success of the workshop: “My impression is that students in general find that the workshop is helping them. The workshop has been well attended but there have been spaces left unbooked at times. Seminar tutors in FASS have told me that a lot of their students were not aware of its existence. The workshop is a new venture but it seems to have responded to an unmet need among students to discuss writing at university level with someone outside their department who is not a seminar tutor or a lecturer or a course director. I think a lot of them have appreciated the opportunity to have another source of feedback on their writing and coursework.”
He added: “I definitely think that there is potential for the workshop to be used more often by FASS students. Writing is a big part of university particularly for FASS students and the Academic Writing Space is a friendly, informal and hopefully helpful resource available to them.”