RMA History Blog

Tutorials: Timo Houtekamer


By Timo Houtekamer

You’re writing a paper about a certain topic in order to finish a certain course. Your teacher likes the topic you’re working on and decides that you should definitely speak to this very specialised professor who happens to work at Utrecht University and knows everything you ever wanted to learn.

You make an appointment with this very specialised and very knowledgeable professor, you enter their office, they offer you a cup of coffee, and before you know it, you’re in the middle of an exciting conversation about everything you were ever interested in. You really enjoy it and you decide to ask whether this professor might want to arrange a tutorial for you in the next block. They say they do, and this is where one of the most fruitful experiences of the research master begins.

The first week of the next block has begun, you’re reading those three books that you need to have read and written about before next Friday, and you’re wondering why you enrolled for the research master’s programme at all. In the second week you’re starting to get used to the workload, and at the end of the third week you’re beginning to feel a bit like a specialist yourself. You’ve read monographs, articles, and theories, you have discussed them with your teacher who spends one or two hours of his time with you every week, and you get to decide what you want to do next.

During these tutorials, you get the opportunity to work on what you actually want to work on. You do not sit in classes and listen to a lecturer and you do not have to read any articles of which you know you’re not using them for your research. Instead, you exchange ideas with your teacher about the material you’ve read, you try to work out a coherent literature list, and together you find an interesting topic to write your final paper about. Doing a tutorial is hard work, you have to have a lot of discipline, and you do not meet as many fellow students as you would in a regular course, but at the same time, it is one of the most fruitful and exciting learning experiences I’ve ever had.