Saint Joseph's University

5 Writing Tips for Graduate School

Most new graduate school students are concerned about the writing portion in the Organizational Development and Leadership program. They are unsure about differences between writing for an undergraduate program as opposed to a graduate one. If you’re concerned that your writing abilities are a bit rusty, read the tips below to maximize your writing success in a graduate school setting.

1. Professional, Clean Writing

Professors in graduate school expect students to write in a high caliber compared to assignments delivered at the undergraduate level. Specific examples include absence of grammatical errors and appropriate formatting. In addition, the content should be clearly stated and easy to follow as the paper progresses. Your syllabus will list required components for all written assignments; be sure to follow these instructions like you’d follow a recipe when cooking.

2. Research

Graduate-level writing reflects a tremendous amount of locating and reading through research. Papers at this level often will require 10 to 20 citations from different sources, so it is important to hone your ability to read and sift through a lot of material to find what you need. Set up a system where you can organize what you need as the paper progresses. Be sure to save sources in a way that allows the creation of your bibliography easily.

3. Style

Students in organizational leadership programs learn early on that the desired format for most of the writing is the APA style. It is important to become well versed in the APA style and to check each paper, citation, and bibliography for correct formatting and usage. Early on, professors will guide you to publications and/or web sites to help you become an APA expert.

4. Your Contribution

Graduate school students must provide critical thinking in their writing at all times. The major difference between undergraduate and graduate level writing includes the use of interpreting data and supporting a statement using evidence in peer-reviewed publications. Students also contribute through their writing and sharing of business experiences, professional training, and real life work examples, which make both the written work and the class time more robust for all.

5. Mechanics of Writing

After reading, selecting research, and being aware of required style, there are some other elements that you can incorporate to make your written work worthy. In addition to conciseness, it is important to state early on why you are writing about something. A graduate level writer doesn’t have to build up to a statement as undergraduate expository writing classes required. Good writing at this level states the belief or point of view early on and makes the case through a tightly written, easy-to-follow paper that cites sources as needed. A graduate level paper is not a rambling essay of thought that ends when a desired number of pages is reached.

Graduate level writing is definitely more complex than undergraduate writing; however, with these concepts in mind, you are off to a successful start!

About the Author

Photo of SJU student blogger, Elizabeth Upham

Elizabeth Upham is a graduate student completing the MODL program at Saint Joseph’s. She is employed as a Patient Satisfaction manager at a medical center in Morris County, New Jersey.

She is a certified Volunteer Administrator, a published newspaper and magazine writer, and speaks nationally on topics pertaining to volunteer management and the patient experience.

Grad Year: 2017
Program: MS in Organizational Development and Leadership

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