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Writing skills

Good academic writing skills are essential for the successful completion of your study programme. Learn about the best ways to write and how you can motivate yourself to write well by taking a look at the tips on this page.

Ten tips for good academic writing



1. Be aware that the writing process has several phases: choosing and defining a topic, formulating a thesis (question), making an outline, doing research, writing, rewriting and adding the finishing touches.

1. Immediately start writing without a plan.

2. Define your topic: first choose the topic, then define it more precisely by coming up with a clear question.

2. Try to read everything and include it in your thesis, or want to research too many different questions.

3. Collect material on your topic that is relevant for answering your question and take clear notes from which you can easily retrieve your sources.

3. Copy everything without looking at whether it’s relevant, or make loose notes you can’t find later. 

4. Get down to the task of writing and work regularly (postponing is not a good idea).

4. Work in bursts when you ‘feel’ like it, or wait until the last minute.

5. Rework the material into an argument: explain things in clear steps and show your reasoning.

5. Write a collection of unrelated facts.

6. Write first, correct later.

6. Expect to write the perfect text straight away: if you write and correct at the same time you will soon get stuck. 

7. Bear in mind that writing a thesis is a learning process and you are a beginner.

7. Set unrealistically high goals and expect to do things perfectly.  

8. A supervisor will help you identify any weak points and improve them.  

8. Try to hand in a faultless product because you think that criticism is awful. 

9. Think how to resolve the problem if the writing isn’t coming along; go back one phase in the writing process, talk to others, ask for advice, etc. 

9. Struggle on with dogged determination and try to solve problems on your own.

10. Build your writing confidence by looking at what is going well.

10. Set impossible targets, ignore progress and compliments and only pay attention to what is NOT good.

Thesis writing workshops

Thesis writing workshops are held several times year at Plexus Student Centre. Check the agenda for upcoming sessions and sign up for a place. 

Better writing, less stress, higher grades!

Are you a student of the Faculty of Archaeology and working on a paper or thesis? Do you have any issues concerning planning, referencing, style or the faculty guidelines? The Writing Lab can help you!

The Writing Lab (WL) is a free service to coach and support you with all your written assignments, whether this is a paper or your thesis and whether it is in English or Dutch. Our aims are:

  • To assist bachelor and master students working on any writing project, in all stages of the writing process;
  • To help improve your writing skills and thereby improve the quality of all your written assignments;
  • To support and motivate you by helping you organize the process of writing, provide you with the right tools or merely function as a sparring partner.

Help offered by the Writing Lab

Time Management
We provide you with the best tips and tricks on how to make schedule as well as sticking to it, setting clear goals, make efficient use of time and monitoring progress.

Defining research questions
A clear research question forms the basis of any paper and is therefore of utmost importance for the quality of the end result. We help you defining or fine-tuning your research questions.

Sources: finding, interpreting, referencing
Because they are a pain in the *, but essential for any academic text.

Writing style
The style of a text depends on the target audience. We will help you finding the right tone and style for any kind of writing project. 

Recognising recurring (grammatical) errors and correcting them
Grammatical and stylistic errors in the text weaken your argument. We will teach you how to recognise and correct these errors, in such a way that repetition of the same mistakes is avoided.

Provide additional resources
Do you sometimes just don’t know where to start your research or when to stop collecting information? Ever have trouble with the faculty guidelines? And do you occasionally wish you could discuss your paper without having to worry about it effecting your grade?

Contact us

The Writing Lab organises online group instructions on Academic Writing. See the schedule for group instructions.

When you are interested in participating, please register by email: r.e.timonen@arch.leidenuniv.nl. You will receive further instructions after registration.

Please note that the Writing Lab does NOT offer:

  • Personal assistance
  • Instruction to students from other faculties (Archaeology students only!)
  • Specialised assistance with regards to dyslexia
  • Corrections of essays and theses
  • Language training
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