The Write Here, Write Now Podcast Series
The Write Here,Write Now Podcast Series
The series is structured around the theme of student literacy. Each of the six, 10-minute long episodes of Write Here, Write Now explores and directly addresses recurrent issues experienced by university students that occur throughout their academic career. Therefore, the series focuses on improving student literacy by offering practical tips and simple strategies for developing their academic writing skills. The series is comprised of interviews with students, lecturers and experienced tutors. Each episode includes informative interviews with faculty members of University College Cork (UCC) as well as the Skill Centre, all of which have extensive experience in academic writing and assessing students’ written communication.
The goal of Write Here, Write Now is to engage with the community in a way that directly assists with the development of their academic writing skills and the main objective of the podcast series, as a whole, is to improve student literacy by focusing on key issues within academic writing. Therefore, the series explores the following academic communication skills: unpacking the question, academic writing styles, building an argument, planning your essay, introductions and conclusions, and editing and proofreading. Unlike the conventional tutorial classes on academic writing, the Write Here, Write Now series was created to assist students in developing their own academic literacy skills as well as contributing to the blended learning experience of the Skills Centre. This approach allows students to supplement their classes in the Skills Centre or elsewhere to help build confidence and improve their writing skills in their own time. The portable podcast format not only appeals to the increasingly digitally literate student body in Ireland but provides students with useful tips and strategies to improve their academic writing in a setting that is more intimate than that of a classroom.
As academic writing is a perennial topic that is relevant to both current and future students at universities nationwide, the podcast is available as a free download from the Skills Centre website for national and international students as well as all members of the community to access at any time. Prior to the Skills Centre, which was established with the support of members of the Write Here, Write Now team in 2017, there were no services provided by the university to assist students’ development in academic writing skills. The Write Here, Write Now podcast is, therefore, unprecedented locally as well as nationally. Indeed, no other Irish university currently offers a podcasting approach to the development of essential academic skills. The subject matter of the programme is relevant across all disciplines and is targeted at a general audience so that students of all levels and from all backgrounds, as well as those outside of academia, will find it useful
Listen to this Podcast series Below!
Episode 1: Unpacking the Question
Beginning with the set assignment question itself, the first episode explains to students that one of the most common mistakes made in written assignments is not answering the assignment question properly. The podcast episode then offers a number of techniques for avoiding this mistake by demonstrating to the UCC student body how to break the question down into manageable parts by highlighting important key words and identifying the parameters and the overall topic of the question. To enhance the podcast and to make the first episode’s content more relatable to students, one student who has had issues in directly addressing set essay questions in the past are interviewed by a member of the Write Here, Write Now team. Through this specific case study, this interview highlights the difficulties students encounter when responding to set essay assignments and, more importantly, emphasises how the student overcame these issues. To reinforce the issues raised from the student’s perspective, the podcast episode also considers the same topic from the supervisor and lecturer’s viewpoint. Here, the podcast episode focuses on the lecturer’s expectations, specifically in relation to the student’s capacity to relate the content covered in the lectures directly to the set assignment. Unlike conventional academic standards which return students essays with predominantly negative feedback, a specific segment of the podcast episode is dedicated to offering students positive solutions to these response-related issues by providing helpful resources that actively enable students to develop their ability to focus their critical insights and answer the set essay assignments according to university standards.
Episode 2: Academic Writing Styles
In addition to unpacking the question, expression is another of the most common critiques students receive on their written assignments. Although it is one of the most common points of feedback, the concept of expression is rarely clearly explained to students. The second episode of Write Here, Write Now continues the series’ exploration of academic writing issues by discussing academic writing styles with students and lecturers. The episode commences by clearly explaining the different reasons behind this critique which frequently indicates when a student has conveyed a point in a colloquial, vague or convoluted manner. Similar to the series’ introductory episode, this episode discusses the topic first from the student’s viewpoint and highlights how and why the student found it difficult to develop this aspect of their academic writing. In the interests of clarifying the term “expression”, Episode Two also features an interview with a member of UCC’s teaching staff. The focus of this interview is on explaining exactly what a lecturer means when they write “expression” in the margins of a student’s assignment and why is it important for the student’s essay. Once both the students’ and the lecturers’ concerns and insights have been established, the podcast episode briefly delineates the four different writing styles and contextualise the purpose and the advantages of each writing style for its student audience. The Write Here, Write Now team then offers students a number of alternatives to the informal expressions and generalised statements that are predominantly found in students’ assignments. Throughout this segment of the podcast episode, the Write Here, Write Now team emphasises that these alternatives not only improve students’ written expression, but render students’ arguments more objective in its analysis of the material and therefore, more pertinent to the set assignment than an argument that was written in a subjective and biased style.
Episode 3: How to Build an Argument
The concept of an argument itself is another aspect of academic writing that university students frequently have difficulty with. Consequently, the third episode of Write Here, Write Now addresses this issue directly by interviewing a student of UCC in order to determine precisely university students’ overall perception of an argument, as well as whether students deem it a necessity to have an argument for a given assignment and why students find it difficult to construct an argument within written assignments. To enlighten and inform students on the importance of an argument in written assignments, the episode includes an interview with a lecturer from UCC where the Write Here, Write Now team asks the questions that the students of UCC have not had the opportunity to ask. In contrast to the large and often intimidating lecture hall format, which frequently dissuades students from asking the questions that worry them the most, the podcast series’ interviews with key members of staff offers students a more intimate insight into the expectations of university lecturers. Hearing about the relevance of constructing an argument may not necessarily ensure that students understand how to underpin their assignments with an effective argument. Subsequently, the Write Here, Write Now episode on “How to Build an Argument” offers students simple steps to follow which will ensure that they build and maintain an effective argument throughout the entirety of their essay.
Episode 4: Planning your Essay
The Write Here, Write Now series is designed to be thematic, with each episode naturally leading into the next episode’s discussion topic. Episode Four, therefore, intentionally prepares the necessary foundations for the content of the fourth episode in the podcast series: “Planning your Essay”. The lack of coherence or clear essay structure in written assignments can significantly impact students’ grades. As the podcast series is concerned with student literacy, the episode engages with a UCC student directly on the topic of essay structure. The objective of the student interview is to provide students with a forum wherein students can vocalise their concerns about academic writing and suggest potential supports for academic writing that current students would like to see implemented to improve the overall student experience in UCC. Similarly, the staff interviews seek to improve communication channels between the students and the lecturers and teaching staff of UCC. For instance, the “Planning your Essay” episode’s one-to-one interview with a key member of UCC’s teaching staff is based on questions from the students’ perspective. By framing the staff interviews within a students’ perspective, the Write Here, Write Now series makes each episode’s interview more relatable to the student audience and the lecturer’s advice on each topic, in this instance planning your essay, more applicable. Offering practical advice that can be quickly applied to written assignments across all disciplines, is one of the main objectives of the Write Here, Write Now podcast series. For the “Planning your Essay” episode, the motive behind the practical advice segment is to actively encourage students to take responsibility of their development by offering strategies for structuring essays to maximise coherency and ensure that the essay presents the student’s argument as effectively as possible.
Episode 5: Introductions and Conclusions
The surest way of guaranteeing that a student’s essay is well-planned and adheres to a clear argument must be evident in the essay’s introduction and conclusion. The penultimate Write Here, Write Now episode tackles one of the most difficult aspects of written assignments, how to form a strong introduction and conclusion. This episode introduces the topic from the student’s perspective. The student interview enquires what specifically students find challenging about composing introductions and conclusions and invites the student to offer their own opinion on how tutors and lectures can continue to support students’ development in this respect. Adding to this debate, the Write Here, Write Now team interviews a faculty member to highlight what students ought to avoid including in their introductions and conclusions and to specify what ought to be mentioned within an essay’s introduction and conclusion instead. The focus of the episode’s storyline then shifts back to the student, with the Write Here, Write Now team delivering key techniques as well as resources to improve and strengthen students’ introductions and conclusions.
Episode 6: Editing and Proof-reading
The essay is completed! Or so the students would like to think. The final episode of Write Here, Write Now hones in on an academic writing aspect that is largely neglected by students: “Editing and Proof-reading”. Poor time-management frequently results in students speedily writing up an assignment and submitting the assignment just in time for a deadline. Usually, assignments that have not had the benefit of being edited or proof-read before submission lose a considerable number of marks for including material that is not relevant to the assignment question or for containing a considerable number of grammatical and spelling errors that affect the students’ intended meaning. The final episode’s student interview ascertains whether or not students consider editing and proof-reading an integral part of the essay-writing process and how students could be supported further in this area. Likewise, the lecturer that is interviewed during this final episode addresses the importance of this aspect of academic writing from a supervisor’s perspective and highlights how it is a key skill to acquire especially if students intended to pursue an MA or PhD degree. The principle issue with editing, however, is deciding what to cut and why. The helpful advice section of the final episode emphasises strategies that have worked for students that have had issues with this area in the past and point to any other resources that can be consulted to improve students’ academic writing skills in this respect.