Working as a tutor for the writing tutorial program has allowed me to actively learn about academic writing, which is a good experience for my future papers.

TRAN Ha Duy Khoa
Fourth-year Global Studies Major / International Student from Vietnam

TRAN Ha Duy Khoa is one of the tutors for the writing tutorial program, which is offered to support students write their academic papers in English for their class assignments.
We interviewed him about what is important for writing papers, what he was struggling with writing, and what he gained from being a tutor in this program.

What is the writing tutorial program? What do you do in the session?

The College of International Relations offers this writing tutorial program to help students improve their writing skills and papers, especially the freshmen who are still alien to academic writing. In the session, the tutors will read the students’ papers to check for errors, such as wrong citations, grammatical errors, or expression errors. Then, we will explain those mistakes to the students and suggest how to fix the problems.

What did you gain from being a tutor in this program?

Besides my notion to help other students improve their papers, I believe joining the program as a tutor is a great opportunity for me to learn. There are hundreds of possible mistakes we can make when constructing an academic paper, especially when English is not our mother tongue. Meanwhile, the chance for me to write and learn from my writing mistakes is hugely limited, and those mistakes will mostly follow the same pattern or hardly be carefully reviewed. Thus, working as a tutor, I can access more mistake samples, especially expression errors in writing papers within different academic disciplines. From this, I can actively learn about how to avoid them in my future work.

Do you have any difficult/struggling experiences when you write thesis or reports? What are your students concerned with creating reports and thesis?

During my first year in college, I also had the same issues with the students who visited my booth: unclear writing structures, unsuitable expressions, and, indeed, citing wrong information from the wrong sources. Honestly speaking, the best way to overcome those mistakes is to be patient and accept that we will make mistakes. It takes time, and sometimes it can be quite a long process to figure out the matters we are facing and how to fix them properly. However, it is a mere fact that we are not living alone, studying alone, and even struggling alone. It can be much easier if we seek help from our friends or professors, especially by using the school’s academic-assisting services. So, in the end, I also think it is vital to know this and get the courage to seek help.

What do you think is the difference between the report for high school students and the one for university students? What point do you think is the most important when you write an academic report at the university?

I graduated from high school far too long ago to even remember how my writing was back then. Still, I believe that the notion of giving proper citation to every cited information was quite a novel idea for me when I first started at the university. Unsurprisingly, I suffered and made many mistakes during my first year. However, looking back, I always feel gratitude for those mistakes and my professors, who kindly pointed out and guided me on how to fix them. Without them, I could never gain my proficiency in academic writing. As such, I believe that making mistakes and accepting that we will make mistakes is vital to improving our writing in college.

Also, the more I write, the more I realize that it is not the writing but the preparation phase that will determine the quality of my papers. And the initial step to prepare for a good paper is to ask the right questions to the right persons (or sources). For example, we should not go to Google or any general search tool and hope that we may find precise analytics on a complex matter, and vice versa we should never ask Google Scholar or JSTOR for viral and ongoing events. It is also essential to be patient when chasing down the rabbit hole searching for any information sources. Take the example of Statista’s reports, and it can be far too convenient to directly use the nicely presented data in front of our eyes, yet, if we are careful enough to look at the sources of those reports, it can be quite surprising to see how complex it can be to verify the presented data from the original sources. In my opinion, searching for the right information in the right place and being patient and careful when evaluating the collected data are also important in writing reports.

Please let us know how attractive the writing tutorial program is for students who would like to attend the session in the future.

For the benefit of coming to our program, besides the expected outcome that your papers will be read and checked by the tutors, for me, the greatest point of this program is that you have quality time talking with the senior students and can get a lot of good advice from them. And to yield the most benefit, it is better not to come to the session with empty hands though it is fine to sometime show up with unfinished work or even an outline, as we can at least work on them and help you to improve.

November 2022