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Writing at the Graduate Level


2 Law School Personal Statements That Succeeded (Ilana Kowarski, U.S. News & World Report)
An article that discusses successful personal statements for law school.

10 tips for writing a grad school personal statement (Billie Streufert, USA Today)
“While you cannot change your grade point average or entrance exam scores, you have complete control over the contents of your personal statement. There are many applicants and few spots, so work diligently to persuade readers that you fit their program given your qualifications, interests and professional goals. Use the tips below to prepare and refine your essay.”

Advice for Writing Personal Statements (George Mason University, The Writing Center)
A list of rhetorical questions to ask yourself when preparing a personal statement.

Writing a Personal Statement (Binghamton University, Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development) (PDF)
Includes strategies for focusing your essay, prewriting questions, resources, and tips.

Writing the Personal Statement (Purdue OWL)
“This handout provides information about writing personal statements for academic and other positions.” It includes rhetorical questions to ask yourself before you begin writing and helpful advice. The following sections are also excellent resources:

Write Your Personal Statement (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, The Career Center)
Provides tips for writing personal statements.

Writing Your Medical School Personal Statement (The Princeton Review)
A brief list of tips for writing a personal statement when you’re applying to medical school.

Writing Your Personal Statement (University of Delaware, Career Center)
An overview of writing personal statements with general tips, a suggested process, self-reflective questions, and a list of “dos” and “don’ts.”


Introduction to Graduate Writing (Dr. Emily Heady, Liberty University Graduate Writing Center)
“Some characteristics of good graduate-level writing remain consistent across disciplinary boundaries. This workbook is designed to give students practice in these areas, which include the following:

  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Logic and Organization
  • Critical Thinking
  • Diction and vocabulary
  • Research Writing

In addition, this workbook will give students limited practice in discipline-specific skills such as citation.”

Do’s and Don’ts of Graduate Writing (Debra Davenport, Purdue University)
A handy article listing expectations of graduate-level writing.

Graduate Student Writing Resources (Portland University, Writing Center)
Here you’ll learn about the differences between undergraduate and graduate-level writing, research, language use, documentation, and integrating evidence.

Temple University Harrisburg Guide To Graduate Level Writing (Temple University; retrieved from Utica College Resources for Graduate Students) (PowerPoint Presentation Download)
This PowerPoint presentation provides students with a way to approach writing a 10-12-page paper, from finding a topic to making final edits. It also includes information on making sentence-level revision, with emphases on the following topics: clarity, semantics, positive phrases, subordination, parallel structure, and paragraph construction. Finally, the presentation offers a brief overview of APA citations.


How to Read a Primary Source (University of Iowa, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: History)
This source provides a series of critical thinking questions to help you analyze a primary source based on its purpose, argument, presuppositions, epistemology, and relationship to other texts.

Research Using Primary Sources (University of Maryland, University Libraries)
Primary, secondary and tertiary sources are explained with definitions and examples. Included on this page you will also find a short video detailing specific criteria for evaluating sources.

A Source’s Role in Your Paper (Harvard College Writing Program)
“When you begin to draft your paper, you will need to decide what role each of your sources will play in your argument. In other words, you will need to figure out what you’re going to do with the source in your paper. As you consider what role each source will play in your paper, you should begin by thinking about the role that source played in your research process.” This source offers “a list of questions to help you decide how you’re going to use each of your sources.”

What are Primary Sources? (Yale University)
Primary Sources at Yale divides primary sources into the following categories, with detailed explanations and tools for finding sources within each category: Books and Pamphlets, Serials, Government Documents, Manuscript and Archival Material, Maps, Realia/Artifacts, Tablets, Visual Materials, Music, Sound Recordings, Oral History and Dissertations.

What Are You Supposed To Do With Sources? (Harvard College Writing Program)
Identifying useful sources is an important part of the research process, but it is equally important to understand how to use these sources effectively in your paper. This source details how to consider your sources in the context of your central research question, discipline, and scope of your paper.

What is Primary Research and How Do I Get Started? (Purdue OWL)
“Primary research involves collecting data about a given subject directly from the real world. This section includes information on what primary research is, how to get started, ethics involved with primary research and different types of research you can do. It includes details about interviews, surveys, observations, and analysis.”


Common Problems with IRB Applications (Montclair State University, IRB)
The Montclair State University IRB has compiled a list of common issues with applications they review. Here is a list of these issues and a description of the measures you can take when completing your application to avoid them.

How do I improve my consent’s “readability”, or lower its “reading level”? (Montclair State University, IRB) (PDF)
This document explains how to test your document’s readability according to the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level and the steps you can take to improve its readability.

Identifying and Avoiding Bias in Research (Christopher J. Pannucci and Edwin G. Wilkins, National Center for Biotechnology Information)
In the second section of this article, “Pre-trial bias,” you can learn about “the importance of clearly defining both risk and outcome, the necessity of standardized protocols for data collection, and the concepts of selection and channeling bias.” Clearly defining, acknowledging, and/or avoiding non-intentional bias in your research design will help you submit a well-planned and thorough IRB application.

Montclair State University: Institutional Review Board (Montclair State University, IRB)
“The purpose of this website is to provide investigators and the research community at the University with the information and materials that are needed to obtain IRB approval of research that involves human participants.”

Readability is a measure of how easy a piece of text is to read. It can include elements of complexity, familiarity, legibility and typography. Readability formulas usually look at factors like sentence length, syllable density and word familiarity as part of their calculations.

Tips to Reduce IRB Application Turnaround Time (The University of Mississippi)
These tips from the University of Mississippi include some best practices for all researchers submitting IRB applications.


Graduate School Papers and You (Tara Kuther, Thought Co.)
Kuther explains the importance of recognizing short papers in graduate school as furthering scholarly exploration, creating opportunities for constructive feedback, improving writing skills, and preparing for a thesis or dissertation.

Writing Tips for PhD Students (John H. Cochrane, University of Chicago) (PDF)
Cochrane offers tips for PhD students who are organizing, writing, and presenting seminar papers. Although he focuses mostly on business writing, much of his advice can be useful for all postgraduate writers.


Abstracts (UNLV Writing Center) (PDF)
This page defines what an abstract is providing samples.

How Theses Get Written: Some Cool Tips (Steve Easterbrook, University of Toronto) (PDF)
These presentation slides offer tips for writing your thesis and insights into how your examiner/advisor might review or comment on your work.

How to Organize your Thesis (John W. Chinneck, Carleton University)
This page highlights the importance of graduate research, offers a generic thesis structure, and provides some suggestions for writing your thesis.

Prospectus Writing (Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning)
This site includes guidelines and links to prospectus examples from different disciplines.

Resources for Dissertators (University of Wisconsin – Madison, The Writing Center)
“This page lists some useful books and websites for graduate students working on dissertations.”

Time Management Tips for Dissertation Writing (Elizabeth Gritter, UNC Chapel Hill; Retrieved from The Southern Association for Women Historians) (PDF)
In this handout, Gritter presents time management strategies for people who are writing their dissertations.

Writing a Literature Review (Purdue Owl)
“A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis). The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels and plays). When we say “literature review” or refer to “the literature,” we are talking about the research (scholarship) in a given field. You will often see the terms “the research,” “the scholarship,” and “the literature” used mostly interchangeably.”

Writing and Presenting Your Thesis or Dissertation (S. Joseph Levine, Michigan State University)
“Instead of examining such aspects as identifying appropriate sample size, field testing the instrument and selecting appropriate statistical tests, this guide looks at many of the quasi-political aspects of the process. Such topics as how to select a supportive committee, making a compelling presentation of your research outcomes and strategies for actually getting the paper written are discussed.”

Writing the Thesis (Mark C. Griffin, San Francisco State University) (PDF)
“This guide is designed to give you a procedural outline for working on your thesis. Every thesis project will have special considerations that are not covered here. You should consult with your committee early and frequently to resolve how to handle these special considerations.” The format and documentation of your project will vary based upon your school and discipline.