We have all painted a picture in our lives, whether we were three years old or thirty. Perhaps you used a lot of colour to make it a beautiful piece of art; after all, without much in the way of colour it wouldn’t be what you want it to be. And this is how you might imagine the work of the writing peers (also known as Schreibpeers) to be like: They add some colour to the “pictures” we paint by helping to make them what we want them to be. Now, what does this metaphor mean, exactly?
By Rahel Papatheodorou
Writing peer Nadja Thöner puts it thus: “In our consultation sessions we listen to the problems our visitors encounter when writing an academic paper. We then try to address their problems either on our own or by directing them to experts in the specific issue”. The FernUni writing peers’ main task is to man the virtual rooms (“Schreibräume”) where students can log in to seek advice. Apart from that, the writing peers also prepare workshops and other events on how to conduct scientific research (For information on the myths about academic writing, see the page “Mythos! Wissenschaftliches Schreiben”).
The tasks sound super creative and diversified! But everything good has a difficult part as well. “For me it was difficult to learn how to give good and sensitive advice without making strict rules that leave no room for individuality,” writing peer Holger Marzahn explains. He is reading for a master’s degree in Community Music at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt and has himself recently started writing his thesis.
Nadja comments, “Some questions seem really difficult to answer at first. However, most of the time you simply have to apply three questions What? Why? and How? in order to find an answer. So, if you dig deeper together with the student, those difficult questions get resolved after all.” But the writing peers are also on hand even if a student doesn’t have a specific problem and is simply looking for a second opinion on their work.
“Because we are students too we understand the difficulties that arise with academic writing,” explains Nadja who is herself immersed in her master’s thesis in Philosophy at the FernUniversität. Holger chirps in: “Because we also have multidisciplinary knowledge we can identify students’ blind spots and other writing foibles and give them useful advice.”
So where do Nadja and Holger get their multidisciplinary knowledge from? It turns out the FernUni offers a three-month traineeship for prospective writing peers which can be completed alongside one’s studies. If you’re curious about the course content, do take a look at this announcement. It lists the competencies you have to achieve in order to qualify as a writing peer.
Are there any long-term benefits to taking on such work, though? Nadja finds that knowing a lot about academic writing can be applied in many areas of daily life such as merging fiction and science or even writing your diary more accurately. Holger agrees about the application of scientific writing to his own life and tasks. He also asserts that, “it is very interesting to learn how a university works. I learned to structure my daily tasks and how to use digital aids such as Zoom or Moodle in order to act competently in day-to-day life”.
The studyFIT Writing Centre project manager Dr Angela Schröder says, “Writing can be learned! We are training writing peers again!”
Are you or someone you know ready to bring the colour into other people’s academic writing? And into your own? Consider applying for a writing peer traineeship by sending your email@example.com by the 31st of May 2023. All applicants need to be enrolled at a German university.
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