Pay-what-you-can Academic Guidance and Mentoring

Update 21st January 2019 - I am currently in the final stages of writing up my PhD and am not in a position to take on new students at this time. I will update this page as and when I can do so again.

When people first get to university, especially if nobody in their family has ever been and they come from a background where it's not an expectation that you go, they often find themselves overwhelmed. Part of this is obviously living in a new place, surrounded by people and opportunities and free of responsibilities and oversight.

But there's a large part of it that's to do with the way in which university degrees work. You're often expected to internalise a large amount of material and synthesise it into a piece of work that's going to be assessed (and might even count towards your final grade) within a matter of weeks, and there's usually very little in the way of guidance as to how to produce a high-quality piece of work. Especially in the arts, humanities and social sciences, you're often expected to just know how to write an essay, how to do a literature review, how to reference, how to analyse and criticise and evaluate. You're rarely taught those skills, and even when you receive feedback on your first assignments and find that you didn't get the grade that you wanted, you'll often find that there's very little in the way of specific advice on how to improve, or how you could have done better.

I think this is sub-optimal, and I've tried to produce some resources elsewhere that go some small way towards ameliorating this problem of mismatched expectations and provision of training. However, I recognise this isn't enough for a lot of people, and with the best will in the world a 3000 word essay-writing guide isn't going to answer everybody's questions. I want to do more.

In that vein, I'm volunteering my services as a tutor, for free - or rather, in a pay-what-you-can framework. If you fill in a short form telling me your name and contact details, a little bit about you, what you study and where, and what you're looking for help with and the timeframe you're working in, I will do my best to help. I'll try to give you an initial response within 72 hours, to let you know how soon I'm likely to be able to help and how much I'm likely to be able to do for you.

Why should you ask me for help?

Well, I started teaching at the age of 17, mentoring my peers through their GCSEs and A-Levels because my school was woefully inadequate. I've been tutoring and teaching ever since in various forms, and I'm now the Senior Tutor for two of the largest first year arts courses at the University of Edinburgh. Last year I won the Student Association Award for Best Student who Tutors, and I've marked hundreds of essays in addition to writing dozens (if not hundreds) of my own, netting me a double first in my BA from the University of Cambridge, and two Masters degrees from Cambridge and Edinburgh, the latter with distinction. In short, I have a lot of teaching experience, and I know how markers think.

What can I offer you?

I can help to make your work better. That includes understanding how to make arguments, particularly in essay form; how to structure your work; how to reference properly; how to do a literature search and review; how to make yourself sound confident without seeming arrogant; and how to present your work in a way that's compelling. If you want more feedback on something you wrote and got back, then I'm happy to provide that too.

I'm well versed in the arts, humanities and social sciences generally construed, and can provide constructive critiques of essays in many of the disciplines within those fields. My main background is in History and Philosophy of Science, and I now study Science and Technology Studies and teach Sociology and Social Policy. I can provide substantive content-based advice in those areas, but the skills of essay-writing and writing for assessment at university level are broadly similar no matter which field you're in.

If there are common concerns, problems or worries that I'm being asked about by numerous people and I think they can be answered easily, I'll write up the answers in a blog post and put them online. For more individual issues, I'll provide whatever help I can, over email or Skype.

What do I want from you?

Nothing. At least, you don't have to give me anything. I'll be prioritising helping people who are in their early years or who are first-generation university students or face other obstacles. If you can't afford to pay, then you don't have to. If you feel you can afford to help out, or you think I'm worth it, I would be incredibly grateful to receive whatever you feel you can afford, but only after I've helped you.

I have quite a lot of demands on my time and I'm going to try to do this as much as I can. Great help should be equal access; unfortunately, I can't change the system as a whole, but I can do my best to pay it forward and help as many people as possible, to the best of my ability.

Want to donate?

If you feel like I've helped you out and you'd like to reciprocate to whatever level you feel comfortable, then you can do so here, or consider supporting my work through Patreon.


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