SUM4300 – Text Lab

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Course content

In the craft of research, writing is our most important tool. While ideas and questions can emerge from any situation or impulse, it is only through writing that we can clarify our ideas to ourselves and others, plan how to explore them, and share our findings with society. Writing is also an everyday undertaking. Numerous trivial texts (notes, summaries, e-mails, transcriptions, plans, mind maps, etc.) precede all final manuscripts. Without these treasured pieces, no research puzzle can emerge. Uses and joys notwithstanding, writing is also challenging. And if the routes ahead are unclear, writing can become painfully lonely. 

Embracing these insights, SUM4300 aims to demystify the tacit and everyday writing chores inscribed in all analytical work and help students identify a variety of writing tasks that are helpful to practice as the MA process moves forward. Here, students will find time and space to explore the mysteries that emerge in the process from first ideas to multiple texts-in-progress, collectively and in dialogue with Centre staff. The course will also foster a constructive feedback culture. Key questions include: How can I combine course work and thesis work? How can I balance free writing and editing? How can I invite feedback, or set up interviews, before I know where I am going? What makes a text 'academic'?

Learning outcome

  • To comprehend the multiple uses of writing in the craft and presentation of academic research.
  • To create strategies for keeping your thesis process warm, share texts regularly, and comment constructively on work by peers.
  • To explore different writing practices that help you learn more from the time you spend on your studies. 
  • Ability to differentiate between explorative and explanatory purposes of writing.
  • Solid overview of techniques for cultivating helpful writing strategies, including joint writing.
  • Understanding of the many uses and misuses of feedback, and the principles reflected in the University of Oslo’s ethical guidelines for supervision. 
  • Command of techniques that inspire writing and split thesis work into multiple, smaller writing projects.
  • Ability to formulate what kind of feedback you seek, and give helpful process-oriented feedback to others.
  • Ability to edit a text, when time is right, by applying techniques for clarity in academic writing.


This course is only for students who are enrolled in the two years master's programme Development, Environment and Cultural Change, and is designed for students that are in their second semester. 

The course will be compulsory for program students beginning august 2020 and onwards. 


Taking a learning-by-doing approach to text work, this course draws on explorative writing and process-oriented feedback to support the development of academic work competences. This way, the course offers a bridge between the SUM4100 and 4200 lab work and your final year thesis work.

The course is activity-based and consists of a series of workshops. Each workshop comprises multiple learning activities, including process-oriented feedback (in groups), plenary micro-lectures on academic text work, class exercises and discussions, an informal poster exhibition, and joint writing sessions for integrating new ideas. 

Before each workshop, participants choose from a course booklet comprising about 30 questions that engage with issues relevant to any MA research process and write a 3-5 page reflection note for group feedback. The questions have been formulated with input from former students, current supervisors, and the University of Oslo’s Academic Writing Centre. Students are also welcome to formulate their own assignments (max. two) based on ongoing writing projects. Participants also prepare comments to peers.


To pass the course, students must participate in all activities and receive a pass on 90% of all reflection notes. 

If you are ill or have another valid reason for being absent from compulsory activities, it is required that you replace the activity you have been absent from. Read more about regulations regarding compulsory activities

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a pass/fail scale. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals


The version offered spring 2020 is a trial version, and we will invite student feedback on all activities. From spring 2021 the course will be compulsory, and included in SUM’s new course track for academic writing, spanning across all semesters.


Students who prefer to write on computers must bring their laptops to class (for joint writing sessions). Writing by hand is another good option.


Q: Will teachers give us individual feedback on our texts?

A: At this stage, we focus on getting the process going and develop strategies to keep it warm. Therefore, teachers primarily use their assessments of your texts to guide group discussions and inspire micro-lectures. You are always welcome to get in touch with SUM staff, for example via e-mail, to set aside time for a chat. In the course, we will also discuss other ways of inviting feedback.

Q: Can we submit something that is more than ½ page longer/shorter than the word limit?

A: No, it is easier for everyone if we all stick to the same format.

Q: English is not my first language. I worry about making many mistakes. What should I do?  

A: Join the course! Here, we are interested in your ideas, puzzles and research interests. Editing is for a later stage, when you know in which direction your text is moving. You will also learn some helpful techniques.

Q: How can I help fellow students when I know very little about the topic s(he) has written about?

A: We can all learn how to provide valuable support and guidance to others. And we all learn from doing it.

Facts about this course






Every spring


Every spring

Teaching language