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Writing and Research Strategies


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This powerpoint is designed for graduate students interested in starting writing groups, as well as address some of the major issues facing these writers.

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Writing and Research Strategies

  1. 1. WRITING AND RESEARCH STRATEGIES Getting the Most from Graduate Studies with 10 Tips and Strategies
  2. 2. ABOUT THE GRADUATE WRITING CENTER  One-on-One Consultations for up to fifty minutes  Workshops (Scheduled and by Request): New Media in Research Personal Statements and CVs  Not an editing or proofreading service  Check the schedule around 4 p.m. on Fridays to set an appointment  Offers distance consulting sessions via Skype or Google Hangout  ‘Like’ us on Facebook (gwcpsu) or follow us on twitter: @gwcpsu
  3. 3. THE GRADUATE WRITING CENTER  Personal Statements  Brainstorming  Thesis/Dissertation Writing  Free-writing  Seminar papers  Speaking Skills  Article manuscripts  Dialogue  Book Reviews  Organization  Letters of Application  Grammar  Letters of Inquiry  CVs  Word Choice  Introductions/Conclusions
  4. 4. STARTING A WRITING GROUP 1. Writing Groups are Spaces/Places to Express Common Goals 2. What kind of purposes will the group serve? - To Discuss and Resolve Writing Challenges - To Observe another Person’s Writing Processes - To Adopt Strategies for Improving Writing - To Motivate Writers to Write - To Workshop Writing 3. How Should the Group Organize?
  5. 5. ORGANIZING WRITING GROUPS o Gather information about each other’s objectives, and exchange data. *The Google Form provides you with examples of possible questions. Please feel free to create your own form or survey! o Have an informal meeting to talk about each other’s basic goals, play games, and be social o Decide on times/dates for meeting (e.g. weekly, biweekly, monthly) o Decide where you will meet  (to reserve group rooms in the library)  7 Sparks (The Learning Center—also has rooms available for reservation)  2nd floor of the HUB  At someone’s home? A quiet public place?
  6. 6. WHAT ACTIVITIES ARE ‘ACCEPTABLE’? o Your group, your rules! There is no “right” way to manage a writing group o Best practices for effectiveness involve reflection and open communication:  Are you meeting your objectives? Do you leave aware of at least two or three strategies for improvement?  Are your distractions productive or destructive? Does spontaneity contribute to positive communication or do some group members seem annoyed by it?  Are you comfortable with your group members? Do you truly see everyone in the group as an intellectual equal or do you feel inferior to others in the group?  Are some people vamps and some too dominant? Do you leave the group meetings drained and exhausted or energized, inspired, and focused?  Does the group flow? Does your ability to share seem natural or too forced?  Does everyone seem capable of resolving challenges or does the group need additional support? Does the group know where to seek support?
  7. 7. STRATEGIES TO ENSURE PRODUCTIVITY o Nominate someone to get the group started and coordinate meetings o Set a time limit for writers to get feedback on their work (e.g. 20 minutes per writer for a group of 3) o Decide how open you want the group to be. Do you mind if people occasionally show up or do you want the group to be ‘regulars’ only? o Try not to take it personal, if you aren’t sure why a person is critiquing you, ask them how you might address their concern. o Acknowledge feedback, and use what improves your overall work. o If you like each other as people, make friends! Networking is the nature of now.
  8. 8. TOP 10 ISSUES FOR GRADUATE STUDENT WRITERS 1. Do you feel lost or blocked? 2. Do you get frustrated trying to sound smart? 3. Do you obsessively revise/edit your work? 4. Do you want to “fix” instead of “create” ideas? 5. Do you find it hard to let go during the writing process? 6. Do you find it difficult to know what faculty expect from your writing? 7. Do you write to reflect, learn, and discover or to please others? 8. Do you view revision as an artistic process or as an act of correction? 9. Do you wonder why you are in graduate school? 10. Do you fear complexity or uncertainty?
  9. 9. DISCOVER YOUR RESEARCH INTERESTS Remember: Although you are joining a community, you are also a distinct individual with unique experiences that should aid others in their teaching and learning experience. Likewise, you will pay attention to the diversity of experiences of others, match them against your pre-conceived notions, and challenge yourself to consider what standards you hold others’ to when they are representing themselves as students of [insert your field/discipline].  Strategy: Consider writing reflections after class discussion in your own private journal. You may ask questions like: How did today’s reading or discussion of a given subject accurately represent my understanding of reality? Deepen my understanding? Challenge it? Conflict with it?  Strategy: Reflect on your own value and identity with the following questions in your own private journal. What contributions can I make to ensure that others have a more comprehensive understanding of: the problem, ways to study it, applications of our work? Benefits: You will begin to express a distinctive view of matters in your field, hold yourself accountable to the pre-existing conversation, as well as carve a space for you to begin thinking about the research contributions you want to make.
  10. 10. VISUALIZE SENTENCES AS DRAMAS What’s the drama? Am I wanting to emphasize the time, the subject, the actions taken by the subject, the way that the subject is impacted by other factors, etc.? Drama Code: [Transition=when, where], [Subject=the doer of action] + [verb= action done] + [(in)direct objects] + [preposition=where, how] OR [conjunction=why, along with what other contexts]* Examples: [Although market fluctuations are typical], [emerging digital technologies] [strongly impact] [product distribution, economic regulations, and consumers’ access to information.] [In particular], [customers] [no longer rely solely] [on television ads], [but will seek out other users’ experiences] [with products to determine what they will purchase]. [To illustrate], [user-generated feedback on sites like and Facebook] [influences] [consumer’s buying habits]. *Adjectives and adverbs should be used strategically to convey even more precise information or intensify an important point.
  11. 11. ACTIVE VOICE IMPROVES MEMORABILITY Original Sentence: Recently, few companies have been able to avoid drastic changes in their enterprise business strategy. o Recently, few companies are able to avoid drastic changes in their enterprise business strategy. o In a global information economy, most companies must frequently change their enterprise business strategy. o In a global information economy, few companies can escape the pressure to change their enterprise business strategy. o Due to the nature of a global information economy, few companies are able to rely on brand loyalty as an enterprise business strategy. o Few companies are able to escape the pressure to innovate their enterprise business strategy within the context of a global information economy. Which of these sentence structures seems most appealing? How does the syntax (order of subjects and actions influence the impression of the sentence in our memory? Tip: A concise sentence is often the most elegant, and we make our writing memorable when we experiment with the arrangement of words and structures.
  12. 12. ASSESS THE ‘CULTURE’ OF YOUR FIELD Strategy: The following questions should enable you to begin to see how the field ‘works.’ How do people assert themselves and gain value as a member of an academic field?  History: Under what conditions did this field become part of an institutional structure?  Social Language: How would you describe their specific way of ‘talking’? What jargon differentiates insiders and outsiders?  Intertextuality: What language and references from ‘outside’ enter the ‘inside’?  Rituals: What ‘counts’ as participation? Think about what you do (e.g. going to seminars, participating in a reading group, writing seminar papers, writing conference abstracts, attending conferences, being a teaching/research assistant, developing a thesis/dissertation proposal, etc.)  Conversations: How does the community network with other communities, what are shared politics. Do people affiliate with a discipline or a field? Benefits: You allow yourself the freedom to consider what you think the field OUGHT to be, and consider what it does right and what you think it could do better. This is why one works! One should always want to know: how can I represent this field in a way that others will value what we do.
  13. 13. REPRESENT REALITY IN CONTEXT Evaluating how people talk about reality in this context directly connects to a researcher’s purpose in academic contexts. Strategy: Acquire a basic comprehension of what the author(s) perceives as a phenomena the field ought pay attention to. The following questions offer a heuristic for understanding the structure of scholarly communication, especially written articles.       What is the problem? How is the author studying this problem? Why does the author choose these methods? What are the author’s findings? Does the author address the limitations of their methods and/or findings? Does the author propose ways to use their research? Benefits: You will be capable of articulating how other researchers talk about research. Tip: The value of an excellent researcher is their curiosity in discovering what is obvious, but also unfamiliar. In other words, researchers discover new meanings in re-conceptualizations of various relationships.
  14. 14. MIND CONVENTIONS OF RESEARCH WRITING 1. What is the problem? (scope and scale) 2. Why is that problem of enough magnitude for us to care? (Significance) 3. Who has already tried to resolve this problem? (Literature Review) 4. Why have they failed or what kinds of gaps or openings did they create for future research? 5. What are you going to do to address the problem in a way that is NOVEL from the others? (Methodology) 6. (if applicable) What are the findings or hypothesized results? (Findings) 7. How will others be able to use my research OR what research recommendations might I offer given what we found? (e.g. The study discovered an unexpected variable when we were running our regression analysis of X, Y, and Z. Therefore, additional studies may need to consider A when they examine acoustical parameters and measurements of voice.)
  15. 15. BE MINDFUL OF MOTIVATION What’s stopping you? What are you afraid of? If you are concerned about risk-taking, you must remember: being ‘safe’ offers you zero opportunity to get feedback about your style and genuine interest! Graduate school is an opportunity to formulate and test ideas in a relatively safe environment, but is much more about how you will appear and contribute to a profession. If you are not working with a mentor that encourages you to take certain risks, you may want to consider choosing someone that challenges you to expand your ideas and capacity to make connections. If you feel that you are working with someone that wants you to simply replicate and defend what has been done before, you may feel purposeless. Also, regurgitation is not creating new knowledge, and thus antithetical to the purpose of being a researcher/scholar. Tip: Being too ‘safe’ may be too expensive in a competitive job market.
  16. 16. TOP 10 TIPS FOR IMPROVING WRITING 1. Write to evolve ideas and character. 2. Write to connect and contribute. 3. Write from the heart first, head later. You can always revise, you can’t always be inspired. 4. Embrace spontaneity and you will retain a genuine curiosity for learning. 5. Recognize which contexts make your writing flow, seek them out, or create them. 6. Play with your drafts. Experiment furiously with arrangement and narration. 7. Be your own audience. If you love it, someone else will probably love it too! 8. Share your work. Generously share resources. Goodwill=more fortune. 9. Revise with friends. Honesty and respect are a delicious combination for change. 10. Imagine possibilities for use. Explicitly discuss them in your conclusion and at conferences.
  17. 17. ADDITIONAL RESOURCES For handouts: For presenter’s professional portfolio: For contact: (presenter) (Penn State Graduate Writing Center)