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FSS Writing Lab: First aid for thesis problems

How do I structure my literature chapter? How do I ensure a red line in my chapters? How can I write more scientifically? These are the kinds of questions students often have. Students of the Faculty of Social Sciences (FSS) can ask these questions at the ALP thesis workshop, where fellow students, trained as writing coaches, help them on their way.

This Thesis Workshop is a collaboration between FSW and the Academic Language Programme (ALP).

"It is explicitly not the intention that the coaches correct the text", says Gea Dreschler, programme manager of the ALP: "The coach does not so much correct the text, but teaches the student to improve the text themselves. And also in such a way that the student can repeat it when he sits alone behind the laptop again, a week after the coaching session." 

The writing coaches are trained by FGW lecturers who work for the ALP. They give courses in academic communication skills at the VU and therefore know which issues students come up against, but also how they can best be solved.

Non-directive coaching
This approach takes some getting used to for the new coaches. Robbert Dillema, master student of Anthropology, is a writing coach and describes how he had to learn not to say everything for the student: "The tendency to give students explicit instructions is difficult to suppress, especially if you, as a coach, are expected to come up with solutions. Non-directive coaching is therefore really an art that requires training." But he soon noticed that the approach works well: "Sometimes a few good questions are enough to show the student the solution himself. Students report that they can move on again and are happy with the help." 

The coaching provided additional benefits for Robbert, who also had to write a thesis himself: "I have come to better understand and appreciate the technical side of writing. In addition, the coaching provides insight into a variety of scientific disciplines and writing styles that I was able to learn from."

Customisation per faculty or programme
The ALP can organise your own thesis workshop in collaboration with a faculty or study programme, for example every academic year from March to the summer holidays. Would you like to know more about the thesis workshop for your students? Please contact Gea Dreschler of the ALP:

Contact Academic Language Programme

For VU staff: you can contact us about ALP courses for you or your students or with questions about language policy or communicative skills.

Dr. Gea Dreschler, academic director ALP

Dr. Nel de Jong, coordinator ALP for Dutch (NT1, NT2)

For students: for questions or information about a course, workshop or coaching, contact us at