Online Writing Lab:
Writing techniques and exercises

You can use writing techniques and exercises to work on your writing skills and improve as a writer. We are working hard on providing these materials to you in English and are uploading them as the translations are finalized.

With the exercises and tests in this section, you can self-assess and reflect on how you write texts.
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My desk can talk (opens in new tab) Change your perspective, recognize your strengths and weaknesses
Writer's interview (opens in new tab) Reflect on your own writing
Test: Types of writers Find out what type of writer you are, recognize your strengths and weaknesses
The writing process Reflecting on complex writing processes
Text types Expectations, requirements and characteristics of different text types
This section contains methods for time and self management, which you can employ during the planning of a writing project.
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Reverse analysis (opens in new tab) Plan your writing project in reverse, beginning with the deadline and ending in the present.
Pomodoro (opens in new tab) How to increase your productivity
Time management for academic texts (opens in new tab) Devise a schedule for your project that includes deadlines and rewards and get an overview of the stages of academic writing.
The Pareto principle (opens in new tab) A time management technique to increase your productivity (80/20-rule).
Zeitfresser coming soon
Weekly schedule (opens in new tab) Draw up your weekly schedule and define time slots for writing.
Mindmapping tasks (opens in new tab) Create a mind map to visually plan out your tasks.
The following writing techniques can help you put the content of your text in a particular, find an outline, narrow down your topic etc.
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Finding your topic and your research question (opens in new tab) Formulate and narrow down your topic and research question with the given criteria.
Fascination & Confusion (opens in new tab) Create a table about interesting as well as confusing or annoying aspects of your topic.
Cluster (opens in new tab) Gather ideas in an unstructured manner (especially helpful when you do not yet feel confident about the content of your text).
Mind map (opens in new tab) Gathering ideas in a structured manner
Instant proposal (opens in new tab) Specify the main points of your paper, thesis or research project and write a brief proposal.
Brainstorming Collecting ideas in an unstructured manner: Gather ideas for your text without prioritizing or categorizing them (i.e. associate, jot down bullet points etc.).
Letter to your granny (opens in new tab)
Letter to a fellow student (opens in new tab)
Put the basic contents of your paper into simple terms, thus improving your understanding of them as well as your usage of the terminology.
The planning pentagon (opens in new tab) Define and structure your topic according to five points: Research question, working hypothesis, methods, theories and terms, material/objects
Interest-based choice of topic Reflect on what interests you about a field or topic, using e.g. freewriting.
Identifying the potential of a topic Break down your topic into subtopics, using e.g. a mind map.
Pros and Cons In a table, collect positive and negative aspects of a topic.
Support your reading and writing with these techniques to navigate the wealth of research literature.
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Instant proposal (opens in new tab) Specify the main points of your paper, thesis or research project and write a brief proposal
Reading techniques Highlighting, underlining, taking notes, summarizing, creating tables, writing down important quotes (including the source), …
Checklists: literature Checklists on searching for literature, reading, taking notes
These techniques can help you in structuring and arranging the content of your text, narrowing down your topic, specifying your research question, as well as planning out sections of your text.
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The planning pentagon (opens in new tab) Define and structure your topic according to five points: Research question, working hypothesis, methods, theories and terms, material/objects
Letter to your granny (opens in new tab)
Letter to a fellow student (opens in new tab)
Put the basic contents of your paper into simple terms, thus improving your understanding of them as well as your usage of the terminology
Instant proposal (opens in new tab) Specify the main points of your paper, thesis or research project and write a brief proposal
Mind map (opens in new tab) Mapping out the content of your text (terms, bullet points, sentences etc.) in a structured manner (identifying areas, hierarchies etc.)
Brainstorming Collecting ideas in an unstructured manner: Gather ideas for your text without prioritizing or categorizing them (i.e. associate, jot down bullet points etc.).
Cluster (opens in new tab) Use this technique to gather ideas freely; later, you can use the result to create an outline.
Checklist for the structure of a scientific text (opens in new tab) Check the structure of chapters, sub-sections and paragraphs with this checklist.
If you are having trouble beginning to write or if you feel blocked, try techniques in this section.
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Freewriting (opens in new tab) Get into the writing flow and get started with a topic, not focussing on mistakes but rather on content.
Letter to your granny (opens in new tab)
Letter to a fellow student (opens in new tab)
Put the basic contents of your paper into simple terms, thus improving your understanding of them as well as your usage of the terminology
Instant proposal (opens in new tab) Specify the main points of your paper, thesis or research project and write a brief proposal
The planning pentagon (opens in new tab) Define and structure your topic according to five points: Research question, working hypothesis, methods, theories and terms, material/objects
Switch the medium Try recording yourself with your smartphone and transcribing this afterwards, or other changes in your writing tools or media to get a different perspective.
My inner critic coming soon
Work on your individual scientific writing style with these materials.
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General criteria for scientific writing (opens in new tab) Scientific language style is heavily influenced by these criteria.
Tipps & tricks on scientific style Tipps, examples, tools
Academic Phrasebank (opens in new tab) (University of Manchester) This resource can help you in finding appropriate phrases for your scientific/academic texts.
Every text needs to be revised and, before submission, proofread. The following materials can help you with that.
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Look at headings, main points, topics, and lines of argument Read your draft and compare section for section: Does your understanding of the text match your writing goals? Gaps, repetitions, conflicts, discrepancies etc. will become apparent.
Checklist for the structure of a scientific text (opens in new tab) Check the structure of chapters, sub-sections and paragraphs with this checklist.
Questions for constructive text feedback (opens in new tab) Use these questions when you are asking someone for text feedback or when you are reading someone else's text.
Checklist before submission coming soon
Punctuation rules coming soon
General criteria for scientific writing (opens in new tab) Check your text against these criteria.
We are working on some techniques to help you with your applications. In the meantime, take a look at our writing tutorial on cover letters in English.