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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

Do

Don’t

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. 

Need help with your writing assignment? Ask the writing coach!

Do you need help with a writing assignment for your studies? Make use of one of the writing coaches at the Faculty of Science.

The Leiden Science writing coaches are specifically trained to help students with their writing assignments. Together with them you will look at what you need. Are you having trouble planning, or do you need help processing literature or with the writing itself?

The coaches have different backgrounds and it is often possible to pair you up with a coach from the same or a similar study. The coaches speak Dutch and English. During the coaching, they will also show you how to use support tools such as the Science Skills Platform. Please note: the coaches will not assess your text in terms of content, nor will they check spelling or grammar. However, they can help you improve your writing skills.

You can make an appointment online very easily. The appointment is for 45 minutes, you can meet on campus but online is also possible.

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