Welcome to The Writing Café

Tucked away on the fourth floor of the Babbage Building is something you might not expect to find. A vintage typewriter sits in the corner on an ancient desk, the walls are papered with Penguin Classics book covers and no two chairs are alike. Sitting at the mismatched tables around the room are clusters of people, talking about sentence structure and the different ways of referencing an essay. This is The Writing Café, set up to provide a welcoming space where students can get advice about syntax while having a sandwich.

You might be a bit daunted about the jump from writing for school to writing for uni. Or maybe you’ve had an essay back from your tutor but you’re not sure where you went wrong. That’s where The Writing Café comes in. “We don’t rewrite things and we’re not a proofreading service – we’re here to help students with the wider discipline of writing,” says Christie Pritchard, Learning Development Advisor at Plymouth.

A similar service was available in the library, but students found it too formal and intimidating, so Christie set up The Writing Café, a relaxed environment where students can go for peer support on their essays, lab reports and dissertations, or just to have a coffee. The furniture and random objects came from clearance sales and junk shops, to give it a laid-back, coffee house vibe. Alongside the Learning Development team is a group of student mentors working on a rota system, so if you want to talk to the same person or see some familiar faces each time, you can.

Some people use the café every week throughout their time at Plymouth; others come and go as they need.

And they come from a wide range of courses, from nursing to law. The mentors also bring various disciplines to the table, but many students find it useful talking to people from outside their field of study, for an objective point of view on the way they write, rather than what they write. “Students don’t have to be struggling with their work to come here – they often just want to push their grades up a bit, and we teach them to ask themselves the right questions,” says Christie. “It’s about distilling an argument, being self-analytical and learning the power of communication.”

Top tips

  • Make sure you really understand what the question is asking.
  • Plan the content and structure before you start writing– it’s time well spent.
  • Work to your own strengths. When and where do you work best? Do that.
  • Get all your references right to avoid plagiarism – if in doubt, reference.

Drop into the Writing Café and see it for yourself on one of our Open Days.

Harriet Jenson, 2nd year LLB (Hons) Law

“I prefer it in here to the library – it’s more homely and relaxing. It’s a nice place to get some work done, instead of going all the way home between lectures. We often meet here for group work, or to have a cup of tea before class.”

Student Life Magazine issue 2
Grace Anderson

Grace Anderson, 3rd year BSc (Hons) Psychology and Student Mentor at The Writing Café

“I’ve been mentoring here for about a year – it’s really rewarding and looks good on your CV (and you get paid!) Because we’re a similar age, I can empathise with the students who come to us for help, and I think we’re more approachable. Some of our job is about reassuring people and building confidence in those who haven’t written university essays before. We give them some basic tips and then they’ll use these throughout all their pieces of work. It’s really nice when people come back and tell us we helped them to improve their writing.”

Aiden Mankee, 1st year BSc (Hons) Nursing (Adult)

“I came here because I needed help with my first essay, which was due the next day! It’s easier talking to someone face-to-face rather than communicating via emails. They’ve given me some pointers about being more concise, cutting back on the description and getting into the argument more quickly. I’ve found it helpful for gaining a better grounding for writing university essays, and ironing out the structure.”

Aiden Mankee

Student Life magazine: Spring 2016 issue 2