WRITING AND RESEARCH STRATEGIES
Getting the Most from Graduate
Studies with 10 Tips and
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
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THE GRADUATE WRITING CENTER
Letters of Application
Letters of Inquiry
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?
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
o Decide on times/dates for meeting (e.g. weekly, biweekly, monthly)
o Decide where you will meet
http://reservations.psu.edu (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?
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?
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.
TOP 10 ISSUES FOR GRADUATE STUDENT WRITERS
Do you feel lost or blocked?
Do you get frustrated trying to sound smart?
Do you obsessively revise/edit your work?
Do you want to “fix” instead of “create” ideas?
Do you find it hard to let go during the writing process?
Do you find it difficult to know what faculty expect from your writing?
Do you write to reflect, learn, and discover or to please others?
Do you view revision as an artistic process or as an act of correction?
Do you wonder why you are in graduate school?
Do you fear complexity or uncertainty?
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.
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.?
[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]*
[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 Yelp.com 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.
ACTIVE VOICE IMPROVES MEMORABILITY
Original Sentence: Recently, few companies have been able to avoid drastic changes in their enterprise
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
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.
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.
REPRESENT REALITY IN CONTEXT
Evaluating how people talk about reality in this context directly connects to a researcher’s purpose in academic
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.
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?
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.)
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.
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.
For presenter’s professional portfolio:
email@example.com (Penn State Graduate Writing Center)