Student - January 15, 2015

Writing lab puts the fun back into writing

Having trouble writing your paper? No idea how to get your research down on paper? The wageningen writing lab might be just the thing for you.
Here, specially trained students help their fellow students improve their writing.

The writing lab started in October and initiator joke Marinissen welcomed the 50th student at the start of the new year. The lab offers students struggling with their writing assignment tools for working more effectively, whether they are producing a master’s thesis or an essay.

Marinissen is happy that Wageningen has its own Writing Lab at last, following in the footsteps of other universities such as Nijmegen and Tilburg. ‘the focus at this university is very much on the content. There is often too little reflection about learning to write. Writing skills tend to be a poor relation, whereas the ability  to write well is key to your participation in academic life.’ According to mMarinissen, a Writing Lab fits the bill in Wageningen because the university places a high value on meeting every student’s individual needs. ‘writing skills are not given the same priority in every programme. But even where it is taught adequately in the curriculum, a student might feel the need for additional support. You can get that at the writing lab. And that fits the university’s vision that students are responsible for their own learning process.’ there is also the fact that Wageningen is having to cope with ever growing student numbers. ‘it is getting harder and harder for teachers to provide individual feedback. The writing lab can help address that.’

Own responsibility

One of the students who has benefitted a lot from the writing lab is Thai master’s student Karatchanok Hutapaed. ‘i can write simple texts, but an academic text is harder, especially as English is not my mother tongue. And on a master’s programme your main activity is writing.’ Karatchanok made an appointment with one of the writing coaches at the writing lab. They discussed the problems and the coach gave her a few techniques that can make writing easier. Karatchanok: ‘the text is still your own responsibility. You get tips and suggestions, but the coach does not rewrite the text.’ Karatchanok noticed an improvement after only three sessions. ‘my writing skills did not suddenly get much better; that is something you have to work on. But i do now have an idea of how to do that.’


There are more success stories like this one, stressed Marinissen. ‘improving your writing skills is not necessarily difficult. But my experience is that people make a big deal out of it. Programme directors and study advisors are quick to see it as a serious problem. But it doesn’t have to be. Asked the right questions, for a lot of students things suddenly fall into place.’ the writing lab is still in the pilot phase. It will be evaluated after the academic year 2015-2016. Marinissen hopes Wageningen will welcome her initiative with open arms. ‘writing does not have to be a stumbling block. The lab is for experimenting, for putting the fun back into writing.’ Karatchanok agrees with her. ‘i hope the university carries on providing this service for students, because it is useful.’

Since the writing lab was launched, 55 students have approached it with questions about a writing assignment. Most of them (47) were master’s students, many (28) wrestling with their master’s thesis. Most of the questions were about the writing process (26), the research question and the structure (24), and the style and formulation (24). Most of the students came from the Netherlands (21) and China (13).

Do you have a question about a writing assignment, or would you like to be a writing coach? Contact the writing lab: