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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.

The Writing Lab is here for you!

Individual peer coaching

Do you want to improve your academic writing skills? Come to the Writing Lab! We offer free one-on-one coaching sessions with our trained peer writing coaches to help you during every step of your writing process. It’s up to you to decide what you would like to discuss in these sessions and you can schedule multiple appointments. Are you writing your thesis, but feeling unsure about your outline or research question(s)? Are you stuck on an assignment and in need of guidance? Would you like some help with structuring your text or with improving its style? The Writing Lab is happy to help!”

Interactive workshops and writing weeks

In addition to the individual coaching-sessions, the Writing Lab offers varying interactive workshops on matters such as structure, style, and self-discipline. You’re also welcome to join one of our (thesis) writing weeks: for an entire week, you’ll be working on your thesis or paper and convene with other students and one of our coaches to motivate and help each other along. We’ll start every morning with setting our goals for the day and end the day communally in the late afternoon to reflect on the progress we made. In short: we’ll provide a positive work environment to boost your productivity!

Good to know

  • All our services are free of charge for students from the Faculty of Humanities at Leiden University.
  • You can come back up to 5 times per assignment.
  • Coaching sessions can take place face-to-face or online.
  • The coaching is provided by specially trained peers (fellow students).
  • Everything you discuss with your coach stays between the two of you.
  • You remain responsible for the contents of your text.
  • We are no editing agency and will not proofread your text.

Contact the Writing Lab!

Please visit our website if you wish to schedule an appointment. You can also email us with any questions. We hope to see you soon!

Website: www.writinglableiden.nl

Mail address: writinglab@hum.leidenuniv.nl

Visiting address: Lipsius building, room 3.05 and Wijnhaven building 2.74

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