"Academic writing is a complex process,” according to Julia Müller. "Drafting, discarding, revising – they are all part of the process.” The writing consultant helps students complete their research projects.
"Everyone who comes to my consultation sessions wants to discuss their writing project,” reports Julia Müller. "Students come with projects ranging from their first term paper to dissertations.” And they do not want to discuss the content of their texts. What they want to focus on is writing as a process – from beginning a paper to turning it in on time. Based in PerLe, the project for successful teaching and learning at Kiel University, Julia Müller has been offering workshops, tutorials and open consultation sessions since the summer of 2017. Her offers are all free of charge for students. "We want to fill a gap. At the end of the day, academic writing is the greatest challenge in the humanities.” Not until the Schreibwerkstatt was established, has Kiel University been able to offer writing consultation for all disciplines like many other universities.
Doctoral student Irina (name changed) has set up an appointment with Julia Müller. She has already done a lot of research for her dissertation, but she finds it difficult to put her results into words. Julia Müller asks her to simply start writing for a paragraph in the structure – for ten minutes. "It was hard work, but very intensive,” says Irina after having filled several pages by hand. "And during the process, I really did realise what this chapter needs to be about.”
Julia Müller recommends carrying out similar exercises on a daily basis to get into a topic. "One trick is to change the font colour to white so you can’t read what you’ve written, for instance,” she reveals. "Later on, you change it to black and take the time to edit it.” For Julia Müller, that means more than simply correcting typos. "Academic writing means formulating and checking theses, as well as thinking about results with an open mind,” she explains. "That does not happen in a linear fashion. It is normal to delete text and rewrite it.” Teachers sometimes do not realise how difficult this process can be for novices. "It helps to discuss the writing process.”
Students from all faculties and all semesters come to Julia Müller. "Sometimes students initially need to learn how to understand and present an academic position in their first term papers,” she explains. The further students progress in their studies, the more independent research they contribute. "At that point, I often need to ask questions in order to understand their statements. Some of them are so caught up in their topic that they forget what people outside their field need to know.” The more extensive the project, the more complicated the writing process. "Researching and writing are closely connected to each other,” says Müller. "A 300-page doctoral thesis is never really complete.” Nonetheless, students also learn how to write a conclusion during writing consultation sessions.
Author: Eva-Maria Karpf