Effective Graduate Writing

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Effective Graduate Writing

  • Dr. Paul Bologna
  • Biology and Molecular Biology

What is Good Writing

  • Concise
  • Addresses the Question
  • Logical Foundation = = Organized Arguments
  • Grammar, Spelling, Citations & Quotations

Definition: Concise*

  • adjective
  • expressing or covering much in few words; brief in form but comprehensive in scope; succinct; terse.
  • Why? Minimizes the BS factor.
  • Why? Gets to the point!
  • Essays: Restating the question?
  • *http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/concise

Addressing the Question (Topic)

  • Is your writing clearly understood?
  • Are supporting arguments present?
  • Have you actually addressed what was in the question or did you go off on a tangent?
    • Checklist of points to be made

Organized Arguments

  • Pre-Writing Requirement: Regardless of Format (e.g., exam, essay, thesis)
  • Points to be made
  • Order of Explanation (logic of the argument)
  • Supporting Evidence

Simple Writing made Simple

  • Write down the ‘facts’
  • Organize the ideas
  • Assess the flow of ideas and supporting evidence: edit as needed
  • Develop an outline
  • Begin writing, follow your outline

Graduate Writing Expectations

  • Examinations
  • Essays, Term Papers
  • Culminating Experiences
    • Literature Review, Lesson Plans/Curriculum Development, Case Studies, Thesis


  • Graduate Courses look for your ability to communicate an idea in a thorough manner.
  • Essays on Exams demonstrate your grasp of the material as well as the depth of your understanding (memorization of facts vs. deep learning)
  • Answer the questions, but with depth, in a limited time frame!

Essays and Term Papers

Essay Examples

  • Paper Summary, ‘Book Reports’
    • Demonstrate Basic Understanding
  • Compare-Contrast Papers
    • Assessing multiple angles of research, arguments with different supporting evidence, your interpretation
  • Synthesis Papers and Term Papers
    • Deep understanding of the complexity of the presented works

Culminating Writing: Literature Review

  • Assessment of the current and historical information on a topic.
  • History of an idea or research development
  • Your interpretation of the topic.
  • Pro and Con arguments and supporting evidence.
  • Why? Deep learning (synthesis) of the topic

Curriculum Development

  • Assessment of the current and historical information on subject matter.
  • History of the pedagogy.
  • Finding a better way to teach the material.
  • Pro and Con arguments and supporting evidence.
  • Why? Improve knowledge, understanding, and application of the information for students.

Culminating Writing: Case Studies

  • Assessment of the current interpretations and historical precedence. Who shaped the argument and why?
  • Your interpretation of the topic.
  • How might it be applied to a new case or under different circumstances (technology!)
  • Why? Synthesis of the topic

Culminating Writing: Thesis

  • Assessment of the current and historical information on a topic.
  • Research development leading to NEW ideas, interpretation, research, and data, to answer a question.
  • Why? Contribute to the body of research and literature on the topic.

What is a Thesis?

A Thesis is NOT

  • Summarization of others’ work
  • Just a long term-paper
  • Something to be completed in a weekend

A Thesis is a Process

Thesis Development

  • Funded Project Theses
  • Independently Developed Theses
    • Ask yourself “what am I interested in”?
    • Find Faculty to help direct your research

Defining the Research Topic

  • What are your interests?
  • What are your mentors interests?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are the capabilities of your mentor and the University? (‘do-ability’ of the project)

Developing a Thesis Proposal

  • Develop project Goals and Objectives
  • Review Objectives with your mentor
  • Develop a thesis committee
  • Review thesis ideas and Objectives with the committee
  • Write your proposal
  • Get committee approval on the proposal

Why is having a proposal important?

  • Guideline for research
  • Define objectives which can be accomplished
  • Committee can’t keep asking for ‘more’
    • (they agreed on it, you can stay focused)

Thesis Proposal

  • Introduction based on literature research
  • Defined Objectives
  • Defined Hypotheses to test
  • Methods to complete the Objective
  • Statistical Guideline to analyze the Data
  • Your Mentor and Committee will provide you guidance on what they expect in the proposal

Research Time

  • The next step is to conduct the research
  • Involve your committee
    • Project Assistance
    • Data Review, Analysis, and Interpretation
    • Research Problems

Writing the Thesis

  • Follow acceptable writing guidelines defined by your Mentor and Committee
  • Sciences generally do not follow the APA Writing Styles
  • In Biology, we use the CBE Style (Council of Biological Editors)
  • Find out what is applicable for your discipline and follow it!

The Writing Process

  • Think = Idea generation, literature review
  • Organize = Outline and group ideas
  • Draft = put something on paper
  • Re-Think = evaluate what you write
  • Re-Organize = does flow exist, eliminate repetition
  • Edit = fix grammar and sentence structure
  • Re-Write
  • Repeat

Pitfalls in the Process

  • No defined research plan (proposal is the best idea)
  • Waiting to the end to write
  • Lack of Committee Communication = keep us informed, especially if you are having trouble!!!


  • Many people think of plagiarism as copying another's work, or borrowing someone else's original ideas. But terms like "copying" and "borrowing" can disguise the seriousness of the offense:
  • According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to "plagiarize" means
    • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own
    • to use (another's production) without crediting the source
    • to commit literary theft
    • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.
  • In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else's work and lying about it afterward.


  • DON’T DO IT!!!!!!!!!
  • If you did not write every last word independently, it is plagiarism!
  • Rewriting someone else’s work is plagiarism!
  • Questions?

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