Graduate Research Papers – Making Your Writing Shine

In graduate school, the quality expectations for writing assignments are far higher than they were in undergraduate. Not only must your papers be longer, with a greater scope and breadth of research, but they must also be better written. Graduate school is also more competitive, as many students feel pressure to write papers that exceed their fellow students’ in quality.

If you’re new to graduate school, these expectations may seem like too high a bar to clear. However, there are ways to differentiate your papers from your fellow students’, and to elevate the quality of your work, so that it impresses your professors and your advisers. Follow these tips to make your graduate research papers stand out.

Write Actively

Many academics write in a fairly boring, passive-voiced style, because they believe it lends their writing a sense of professionalism and objectivity. This is a common misconception and should be avoided at all costs. Writing in the active voice creates more reader interest and results in sentences that are easier to follow.

It bears clarifying just what “active” and “passive” writing voices are. A “passive” writing style typically involves use of the verb “is” or “to be”, and usually makes its most important, central aspect of the sentence the subject rather than the object. An “active” writing style uses a greater variety of verbs and makes its central aspect the object of the sentence. An example of a passive sentence is, “Your paper should be well written.”; the active version of this sentence would be, “You should write your paper well.”. Try to use the active voice as often as possible in your paper.

Use Your Existing Knowledge Base

In graduate school, you are surrounded by colleagues and professors who share the academic passions you have, and who often know as much or more about those topics as you do. This may make you feel unremarkable, and may make it difficult for you to differentiate yourself in class and in your papers.

But no matter your level of expertise in your subject of graduate study, there are bound to be other topics you have a great deal of knowledge in. Try to apply your existing knowledge in other subjects to your academic pursuits. Are you a psychology graduate student with a musical background? Use music-related examples in your psychology papers. Are you a sociology student with a passion for gaming? Use game mechanics and rules to illustrate sociological concepts. This will make your paper refreshingly original and informative to even the most seasoned professionals in your graduate program.

Posted by December 3rd, 2014