Red-haired woman and Black man doing work in library together

4 Quick Tips to Take Your Writing Skills to the Graduate Level

You'll be doing a lot of writing in graduate school, so you may need to step up your skills. Here are a few tips to turn "good" writing into "great" writing!

Most graduate programs require you to do a lot of reading and synthesizing information on your own. You’ll likely have to write at least one major paper per class, so you should push yourself to develop your writing skills beyond the undergraduate level. Here are a few tips to turn “good” writing into “great” to help you succeed in all your grad school courses.

1. Be direct

Avoid any kind of wishy-washy qualifying language in your graduate school essays. Your tone needs to be forceful and confident, like an expert’s. You are pursuing a graduate degree after all—trust your abilities! Remove words like “could be,” “might be,” “perhaps,” “maybe,” etc. from your work when you proofread. Go through scholarly business articles and/or other students’ essays to work on your proofreading abilities and highlight phrases that particularly stand out to you as impressive, well-wrought, and cogent. Make a list of your favorites and try to incorporate them when appropriate in your own essays. Don’t shoehorn them in if the specific assignment really doesn’t call for it, but the act of even researching and putting together such a list will really get you headed in the right direction.

2. Avoid unnecessary first person tense

There’s no easier way to sound less self-assured than to pepper your thesis papers with “I think” and “I believe.” Of course you believe it, you’re the one writing the essay after all! Referring to yourself does not add anything generally, and mainly distracts the reader from your argument. Keep the focus on the points you are trying to make. If you would like to use an example incident from your own life, find a scholarly way of incorporating it, and don’t let your tone become too casual.

Related: Writing a Strong Dissertation Proposal for Grad School

3. Use strong transitions

You'll need to steer the reader from paragraph to paragraph while always holding the thread of your argument together. The best way to do this is to use good transition words and phrases. Try to beef up these words and avoid common clichés. If you are just beginning to practice, it’s better to be clear and use words like “firstly” and “secondly” when you set up a transition rather than have no transitions at all, but as you get better at them, try to mix it up. Invest in a good thesaurus.

4. Control your sentence structure

Longer isn’t always better. Remember how you could procrastinate as a college freshman and stay up all night writing your term papers? Don’t take those bad habits into grad school! Be wary of your sentence structure meandering out of your control and getting wordy, redundant, or just plain pedantic. Don’t get so lost in the description of your examples and primary sources that you forget to clarify how they support your theses. It’s better to be succinct and clear than to prove you have an extensive vocabulary and lose sight of your argument.

Related: Great Expectations: How Grad School Differs From Undergrad

Essays, analyses, arguments, message board responses, dissertations—don't be surprised by the amount of writing you'll have to do as part of your graduate program, whether's it's in person or online. Just remember these four tips and you'll bump your skills up to the grad school level. Good luck and happy writing!

Find more tips and tricks to help you survive your grad school classes, assignments, finals, and more in our Graduate School section.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:

About Vivian Kerr

Vivian Kerr

Vivian Kerr has been teaching and tutoring in the Los Angeles area since 2005. She graduated from the University of Southern California, studied abroad in London, and has worked for several test prep companies, including Kaplan, for whom she offered ACT, SAT, ISEE, GRE, and GMAT prep services as well as admissions counseling. She is a contributing blogger at Beat the GMAT and loves to see her former students succeed in grad school!

 

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Courtney Smith

Courtney Smith

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has been a huge help! The website is very organized with finding the right scholarship for anyone and anything. With CollegeXpress, I've been able to find many scholarship opportunities to apply for. Not only that, I'm also able to search for the colleges I have interest in and see what’s required and what scholarships they offer. I've learned a lot from CollegeXpress. They've helped me in many ways to achieve my goals!

Sarah Armstrong

Sarah Armstrong

High School Class of 2022

I am a deaf student, and I had always dreamed of going to Gallaudet University. CollegeXpress helped me search though other qualified universities. They helped me know for sure that Gallaudet University was the right choice for me!

Rhiannon Teeter

Rhiannon Teeter

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2012

I have spent a lot of time aggressively searching for scholarships. It was a long and frustrating process until I found the CollegeXpress network. This site made my search so much easier. With the simple check of a few boxes, the site sorted out scholarships I was eligible for and led me directly to the correct websites. Winning this scholarship has definitely given me and my family some financial relief, and CollegeXpress has allowed me to improve my chances of winning further financial aid. Thank you so much!

Jessica Rinker

Jessica Rinker

Student, Fairhaven High School; CollegeXpress Student Writer

My high school counselor introduced me to CollegeXpress freshman year. It has made such a difference in high school, and I plan to continue relying on it in college. CollegeXpress is my go-to because it addresses each aspect of being a student. There are the articles you’d expect regarding college applications and financial aid, but you will also find advice on things like de-stressing and maintaining relationships while balancing a heavy course load. CollegeXpress will also keep you updated on current scholarships through e-mails each Saturday. (They don’t harass you with any product promotion like so many other sites do.) CollegeXpress is a lot like an older sibling who has already conquered the challenges you are facing. Now, they are reaching out a helpful hand. I say take it.

Aaliyah

Aaliyah

High School Class of 2022

My mother signed me up for a couple of scholarship contests through CollegeXpress. I was also able to do some research and compare the different schools on my list. I was able to see the graduation rates and different programs that helped me decide on Adelphi University. I will continue looking for some scholarships for my start in September.

College Matches
X

Colleges You May Be Interested In

SUNY Oneonta

Oneonta, NY

Kean University

Union, NJ

Holy Family University

Philadelphia, PA

Gardner-Webb University

Boiling Springs, NC