Writing Mentor Maddison1

Writing Mentor Maddison offers us tips on how you can make your assignments shine

April 30, 2020

Study Support

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We’ve now passed the halfway mark for T1 which means assignments are rolling in! Are you ready to tackle these head-on or are you feeling a little unsure of where to start? 

We asked Deakin student and Writing Mentor Maddison Sideris what it’s like being a Writing Mentor and her advice on how you can improve your assignments, particularly as we’re now studying online.

What course are you studying, and at which campus?

I am in my final year of a double degree in Arts/Laws. I was travelling between both Waurn Ponds and Waterfront, but now I am online like everyone else! 

Why did you become a Writing Mentor?

I was looking for a way to get more involved with university life and thought the Writing Mentor role would be perfect for a student like me, as someone who has always strived to do well in my studies and loves helping others. Becoming a Writing Mentor has been one of the best decisions I have made while at university.

How do students contact a Writing Mentor?

While we’re all off campus, we’ve extended all of our online programs. You can drop in to Blackboard Collaborate and chat with a Writing Mentor 10am–6pm, Monday to Friday. Or you can send us an email and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

What are the most common problems that students bring to you?

  • Referencing is definitely the number one problem that students bring to us. Often students use reference generators that aren’t accurate, or they aren’t even aware of the Deakin Referencing Guide, so we ensure students leave with an understanding of the importance of referencing, as well as providing helpful tips and tricks!
  • Another common query we have is starting or planning an assignment. Sometimes students just don’t know where to start with an assignment because it seems so big and daunting, so we help the student break down their assignment into more manageable chunks, and point them in the direction of useful planning resources. 
  • A lot of students ask us to proofread their work. Unfortunately this is not something we can do for students, however we can ask them a few questions to find out what their main concern with their assignment is, and from there we have a general discussion to try and sound out the issue. 

What are your go-to tips for students who want to improve their writing?

  • Remember the power of drafting (and starting early!). Instead of rushing to complete an assignment in the few days before it’s due, get a start early and smash out a rough draft, even if you think it’s rubbish. Then come back to it in a few days with fresh eyes and add, edit, and rewrite until you have worked your way to a final polished draft!
  • Review any feedback you’ve received on your assignments – if you’re not sure what you can do to improve, a Writing Mentor or Language and Learning Adviser are happy to discuss with you.
  • I always recommend to students to read their work aloud. Being able to hear how a piece sounds is a great way to pick up on when things don’t sound right or make sense.
  • Remember that Deakin has plenty of Study Support resources that you can utilise, including guides on different writing types, exam preparation, how to get organised, researching and much more!
  • Drop in to see a Writer Mentor online or email us.
  • Make an appointment with a Language and Learning Adviser via phone, Skype or Zoom.
  • Students can also get online tutoring from Smarthinking or they can submit essays for useful and timely feedback!

What sort of challenges do you think students will face studying online?

I think students will struggle with motivation and staying focused, as it is so easy to get distracted at home.

When watching a lecture online, it can be so tempting to pick up your phone and stop paying attention to your lecture. Sometimes just starting assessments or doing coursework can be hard because it’s so easy to procrastinate with watching a bit of Netflix or grabbing a snack, and saying ‘I’ll get to it later’. What I’d recommend is students try and find a balance, by putting their phone away for a couple hours and getting some work done, then they can reward themselves later with some chill time.

For a lot of students they will miss the face-to-face classes and being able to ask questions during or straight after class. But students should remember there are numerous ways to get in contact with teaching staff, and of course we are available online, along with Language and Learning Advisers!

I think students might also struggle with feeling supported studying online during this time. I recently helped a student who, although her query was a quick question, said she was just happy to have a chat with someone as she was feeling a bit lonely during isolation. As mentors, something we also do is guide students to Deakin’s Support Services. So if students aren’t sure what’s available to them, they can drop in, have a chat, and we can refer them on to some possible helpful services.

How can a student get the most out of an online drop-in with a Writing Mentor? 

We are a drop-in service, so you don’t need to make an appointment with us. When you drop into our Bb Collab Room please make sure:

  • you have your work converted to PDF.
  • you have a list of questions for us, otherwise we are happy to have a general chat too if you are not sure how we can help.
  • when you log in, don’t freak out if a mentor doesn’t seem to be available straight away, we have experienced busy periods so please be patient with us.
  • you have all your details (specifically your name, student ID, unit code and email address) on hand as we need these important statistics for our records.
  • you have your microphone on – we are happy to just use the chat box to communicate, but interactions are a lot smoother when you use your microphone. So if you have a working microphone, don’t be shy!

What is your favourite thing about being a Writing Mentor? 

I love sharing tips and tricks with students that are second nature to me, but for them they have never approached it in that way, but they are so grateful and relieved. I love being able to help students, knowing they are on their way to becoming a more confident independent learner!

Get in touch today!

Sometimes when you’re having issues with an assignment, it’s just helpful to talk things through. The Writing Mentors drop-in service can also help you review any feedback you’ve received on your first assignments so you can think about the academic skills you’ll need to focus on in your next assessments. Additionally, they can offer you tips on researching, understanding assignment questions and how to plan and structure your work. 

If you want to chat to someone about any aspect of your assignment, attend one of our interactive online drop-in sessions hosted by a Writing Mentor like Maddison! You don’t need an appointment, just bring your assignment and your questions. You can also get in touch via email for referencing questions and brief queries.

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