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Online tutoring

Do the same problems crop up each time you’re set a writing assignment?

  • Are you never quite sure where to start, or how to organise your research?
  • Do you lose marks because many of your arguments are not strictly relevant?
  • No matter how hard you try, does your work always seem to lack a clear structure?
  • Or, perhaps your writing is clumsy and not always as clear as it should be?
  • Are you convinced that everybody else has a much better style than you do?

Whatever your problem, I can probably help.

My aim is to help you write essays that are well organised, clearly structured, thoroughly researched, and written in clear, fluent prose. To do this I can help you improve:
  • not just your writing and study skills,
  • but your thinking skills, too.

Clear writing always starts with clear thinking: the two cannot be separated. If you need help I can help you to:

  • generate more of your own ideas,
  • analyse concepts and arguments perceptively,
  • construct clear and consistent arguments,
  • and make your writing more interesting with well chosen relevant evidence.

I can work with you to develop the two types of skills that we all need to be successful in our courses:

  1. Study skills – reading, note-taking, writing, organisation, and revision;
  2. Thinking skills – analysis, synthesis, discussion, argument, and use of evidence.

There is nothing particularly difficult about any of these skills; they need not be the exclusive preserve of a few. Indeed, most of us have the abilities to succeed, if only we can unlock and use them by learning these simple skills. So, if you have always struggled to analyse the implications of questions, read efficiently, take notes, plan and structure arguments, use evidence, and write light and interesting prose, I can work with you to improve these things.

A tutor by your side

Even though working with the book may be all you need to improve your writing, most of us still benefit from working in one-to-one sessions with a tutor on a particular piece of work. If you think you would like to benefit from this, we can work together in one of four ways:

1.  On-line course:

With the book by your side I will take you carefully through the five stages of essay writing from interpreting the question to the research, planning, writing and revision. In each of these you will be given practice exercises to work on with an assignment at the end of each section. Once you’ve completed an assignment you will email it to me. I will add my comments, suggesting how you can improve it, and return it to you. We will then move on to the next stage.

Together we will work on an essay that you choose from one of your courses. As we work through each stage in this way I will give you practical help on how you can deal with the particular problems that you regularly encounter.

In this way not only will your work improve, but you’ll develop those skills necessary to tackle successfully all your future writing assignments. In the process you will not only learn how to write better, but how to,

  • improve your reading and note-taking,
  • your organisation,
  • your revision for the exam
  • and your exam technique.
  • You will learn to plan and structure your ideas,
  • and to edit and order them, removing all irrelevant material, so that your plan is clear and logically argued.

Equally important, you will learn how to think better. You will learn how to,

  • analyse concepts and questions,
  • to criticise what you read,
  • to synthesise ideas and evidence from a variety of sources,
  • to argue consistently,
  • and to support your arguments with relevant and persuasive evidence. 

Most of us are never taught these things. Instead we settle for the strategy of just learning by our mistakes, or by example in those rare moments when we might see our tutor think through and analyse a difficult concept, or pull ideas together from different sources and synthesise them into a new way of looking at a problem. If we recognise the significance of the moment, and most of us don’t, then we might be lucky enough to retain a small inkling of what went on in the hope that we, too, might be able to do the same.

But it need not be like this!

2.  On-site seminars:

Alternatively it is sometimes possible to arrange a series of seminars so that we can work face-to-face in groups.

These take the same form. We work through each of the five stages doing the exercises in pairs or in groups. Then, at the end of each section, every student completes the assignment by working on the essay they have chosen from one of their courses. This gives me the opportunity of working with each student, so that together we can tackle your specific problems in a one-to-one situation.

Like the on-line course, the advantage of working this way is that you won’t be tackling the problems alone. At every step I will be there to help, showing you clear and simple ways of overcoming the most difficult problems. And you choose the essay you want to work on, drawn from the courses you’re taking at your school, college or university.

For most students this has an immediate and lasting impact. Without having to concern themselves too much with the subject matter of their courses, they can concentrate exclusively on their essay writing problems. After they have been shown how they can solve these, and then they have used the new techniques themselves, they rarely go back to their old ways.

3.  Follow-up work:

After the seminars it helps many students if they can send one or two pieces of work to me, so that I can offer advice on how they can improve them. This means that when the course is over you can still reinforce what you’ve learnt, and there is always someone, quite objective, who can look at your work and tell you what’s going wrong when you have problems.

But even if you don’t want to take either of these courses – you just want someone to examine your work and tell you what you can do to overcome the problems you regularly experience – you can still send me a piece of work. I will analyse it and send it back to you with a full report suggesting ways of improving it.

4.  Individual assignments:

All this suggests the simplest of all the alternatives and the one that has been the most popular since the book was published in 2001. After working through the book on your own, you may just want to work through an individual assignment with me. You can contact me when you know you have an assignment coming up and we can work through each stage together at your own pace.

I will work with you interpreting the question and analysing difficult concepts. I will help you to brainstorm the question before you go off to do your research. Then you will produce the first draft of the plan and we will work to improve it, ensuring that it is consistently relevant to the implications of the question. In the writing stage we will work on introductions, conclusions and paragraphs. I will get you to write more lightly with greater economy and simplicity. Then, in the revision stage I will get you to sharpen up the text, restructure where necessary and hopefully produce the best work you have ever produced.

If you are interested in any of these options, or you just want more details, visit my contact form.

Remember, you can be a much better writer and thinker than you are. All it takes are these simple skills. Most of us have the abilities, if we can just learn these skills to open them up.