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Exactica: Erik Hofstee

Former academic helps others to overcome the challenges of writing a dissertation

Juliet Pitman

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Erik Hofstee of Exactica

“Winning can be defined as the science of being totally prepared.” It is with this George Allen quote that Dr Erik Hofstee opens the first chapter of his book, Constructing a Good Dissertation. In it – and indeed in his work through his company, Exactica – Hofstee is helping countless people to prepare themselves so that they can complete their Honours, Masters and PhD dissertations on time. The book, together with the courses offered by Hofstee, help to prepare students, many of whom are businesspeople, for the arduous road toward completion of their theses. Because, while thousands of people embark on a postgraduate degree through dissertation every year, few of them complete their work on time and many of them give up entirely along the way.

“The biggest challenge,” says Hofstee, “is that people don’t know what to do – no one has ever taught them how to write a dissertation. They may know enough about their subject matter, they may have read the literature and even formulated a problem to work on, but they are in the dark when it comes to the process of compiling it all in a dissertation.” To his mind, this is the biggest problem. One of the common experiences of people attempting to complete a dissertation is self-doubt, but Hofstee is adamant that anyone who has managed to reach the dissertation stage is capable of writing a quality paper. Hofstee, a Fulbright scholar who has completed two Masters degrees cum laude and one PhD dissertation of his own, has supervised numerous students in the dissertation process while he was an academic in both Europe and America. He’s all too aware of the multiple challenges facing people who set out to write a paper. “The work I do is mostly drawn from the experience of helping people with their dissertations and working out what is effective,” he explains. “When I had my own dissertation students at Groningen University I realised that they were struggling ridiculously and I started asking why.” The answers to this question became the seeds for what later germinated into the workshops Hofstee runs today.

These workshops, along with the book, offer simple but extremely helpful advice. “As far as I am aware, nobody who has taken the workshop has ever failed their dissertation and I often say that the reason for this success is that what I do is not rocket science. I have simply put together a method that, regardless of academic discipline, can be used to complete a passing dissertation.” Hofstee runs the two-day courses for no more than eight people at a time to ensure that clients receive the attention they need. “I make a promise to people that I will help them to hand in a good dissertation and I will do whatever it takes to keep that promise,” he says. Clients who have taken the course for one degree are welcome to take it again free of charge if they embark on a new degree. And even though his business model is such that on an individual basis, a happy customer is one that never comes back, Hofstee’s devotion to client satisfaction reaps rewards at the corporate client level. Individual clients who have experienced his course quickly spread the word within their organisations to colleagues who are battling to finish a dissertation. The value of Exactica’s offering to corporations cannot be overestimated. The inability of an employee to complete their dissertation impacts a company on many levels. Most obviously, there is the ongoing cost of fees as students need to re-register each year that they continue to study. They are prevented from getting promotions which are contingent on specific qualifications. Their business performance is adversely affected by the need to juggle study and work commitments and the longer the dissertation drags on for, the more their morale and self-esteem are negatively affected. Little wonder then that individuals and businesses alike are welcoming Exactica’s completely unique service offering.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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