Academic writing generally requires setting aside periods of uninterrupted time during which you can gather your thoughts and put them to paper (or computer). Practice is absolutely essential to develop your writing skills and getting started can sometimes be daunting. Check out the resources below for tips and advice on how to write effectively and keep the writing process moving forward.
Workshops for Thesis Writing:
- Thesis Writing Support Group - hosted by Student Academic Success Services (Winter term)
- Dissertation Boot Camp - Hosted by the SGS and Student Academic Success Services (Winter & Summer terms)
- Dissertation on the Lake - Hosed by SGS (Summer term)
- Thesis Persistence 101 - (Fall & Winter terms)
As dates are confirmed, details will be posted.
Student Resources: Writing
The Paradox of Writing in Doctoral Education: Student Experiences. Doreen Starke-Meyerring, McGill University (863KB)
Writing Tips for PhD Students (2005). John H. Cochrane, University of Chicago.
The Graduate Student Writer: Tips to Make the Writing Process Work for you
Compiled by Stanford University Centre for Teaching & Learning - http://ctl.stanford.edu
The posting below gives some priceless writing tips taken from the words of renowned authors. It is from the August, 2011 issue of the online publication, Graduate Connections Newsletter: Professional Development Network Tips and strategies to give graduate students a leg up in launching a professional career [http://www.unl.edu/gradstudies/current/dev/newsletter/], pp 9-10, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is published by the Office of Graduate Studies. ©2011 Graduate Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Reprinted with permission.
The Graduate Student Writer: Tips to Make the Writing Process Work for You
Professional writers, whether in academic or industry, often live or die by the pen. As a graduate student, you are no doubt discovering that your professional survival depends on your ability to communicate with others about what you know and how you have learned it. Your writing will eventually be competing with that of others who have the same aspirations as you do—for jobs, grants and fellowships, and publication in peer-reviewed journals.
Your ability to exchange ideas, collaborate with others, and ultimately succeed hinges on the ability to write effectively. Here are some timeless tips, straight from the pens of the world’s most renowned authors, to help you develop both style and substance.
1. OMIT THE BORING PARTS
- I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard
- Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret. ~Matthew Arnold
- Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them. ~John Ruskin
- Try to always write with your readers in mind. What do they need to know and want to know? If you have nothing to say, or what you say has no meaning for the reader, there is no point in writing it.
2. ELIMINATE UNNECESSARY WORDS
- I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil. ~Truman Capote
- Substitute damn every time you’re inclined to write very. Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain
- The road to hell is paved with adverbs. ~Stephen King
- Don’t be fooled into believing that words like really, actually, or extremely make writing more forceful. They don’t — they just get in the way. Cut them and never look back.
3. KEEP IT SIMPLE
- When you wish to instruct, be brief; that men’s minds take in quickly what you say, learn its lesson, and retain it faithfully. Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind. ~Cicero
- Vigorous writing is concise. ~William Strunk Jr.
- Maybe it was all those late nights as an undergraduate struggling to fill out mandatory ten-page papers that made us think the only worthwhile writing is long and drawn out. While it’s more difficult to express yourself in the simplest possible manner, it’s so much more effective. More work for you means less work for your reader.
4. LET CRITICISM GUIDE YOU
- You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance. ~Ray Bradbury
- You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist. ~Isaac Asimov
- Engrave this in your brain: EVERY WRITER GETS REJECTED. You will be no different. ~John Scalzi
- Writing means putting yourself at the mercy of others who may not always say nice things about what you write. Learn to make the most of the insults and accept the praise with a dose of skepticism. Use the criticism from others to improve and strengthen your writing. Foster a relationship with a good editor—one who knows sound writing and isn’t afraid to teach as s/he critiques.
5. WRITE A LOT, ALL OF THE TIME
- Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed. ~Ray Bradbury
- By writing much, one learns to write well. ~ Robert Southey
- For many writers, it’s hard to know where to begin. So forget about beginning—just write. Keep a journal to make notes and observations about your research and your reading. Comment on ideas you hear from others. Critique presentations you hear at conferences. And take every opportunity to write wherever you find one.
6. WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW
- The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. ~ Linus Pauling
- If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
- Learn as much by writing as by reading. ~Lord Acton
- Successful writing is all about trust and authority. It makes sense to write about your area of expertise. If you don’t have an expertise, reading and writing is the best way to develop one and put it on display.
7. TAKE A CHANCE - DON'T ALWAYS PLAY IT SAFE
- Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them. Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer’s make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto. ~Ray Bradbury
- Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good. ~William Faulkner
- Doing what worked once will only get you so far. Experiment with new styles, even if it means taking criticism. Without moving forward, you’ll be left behind.