At the time of writing this, my master thesis is in the hands of my thesis committee. Six months ago, I had been warned by friends about all the obstacles that would lie in my path. However, the mental preparation for these was not always enough to stay ahead of the problems. My endless attempts to properly formulate the research questions, mismanagement in what initially appeared to be well thought through planning, and the reading of infinitely complicated scientific articles. These struggles are probably familiar to every master’s student. Still, there is one important skill in the master’s thesis that I believe is underestimated: writing. It is in general an undervalued skill at TU Delft, and I now firmly believe that TU Delft should consciously pay more attention to it.
I do not know where TU Delft’s underestimation of writing skills originates from. But what I do know is that in general, the higher the ‘technical’ level of a study, the more important the study is viewed. There are good reasons for this. Technical studies challenge students with complicated mathematical or algorithmic tasks. In that sense it is logical that greater emphasis lies on the technical skills. Only, I believe that good writing skills contribute significantly to presenting your qualities well. It also demonstrates that you have an excellent understanding of complex material and can write about it in clear language.
Technical and communication skills are often seen as two extremes
Strikingly, last year the professor of a modelling module kept harping on about the writing style of the students. In a short presentation, he explained how he expected us to construct paragraphs. Every paragraph should start with a sentence that clearly introduced the subject. It should be followed by the arguments and end with a concluding sentence. I know that this sounds incredibly simple to the average TU Delft student, but it requires a lot of practice. I am not satisfied with my writing abilities yet, but this really helped me.
Technical and communication skills are often seen as two extremes. Students are good in either one or the other. It would be valuable indeed if we recognised that both qualities are mutually reinforcing. Furthermore, good writing skills are essential in the future careers of most students.
And hopefully they have another advantage too: the next generation of researchers will write articles that are easier to understand for future graduates. Maybe graduates would struggle less when reading scientific pieces. All in all, it would make science more accessible. A very welcome development in my opinion.
Can Yildiz is a master student at the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management. Due to his graduation, this is his last column.