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Reading, Thinking, and Writing at a Graduate Level

Learn how to read, think and write at a graduate level to ensure your success in a graduate program.

Writing at a graduate level

Over the next two years, you will be working through many assignments and activities that involve writing. Writing at a graduate level requires you to first explore a variety of authors in the fields you are studying. In this process, you will dig deeply into the topics, synthesize multiple concepts and identify your own thoughts about the subject.

Now is the time to begin thinking about how to write at a graduate level. Atherton (2013) provided a comprehensive description of what good graduate writing looks like. The following list contains the headings of the pertinent topics, but he provides much more detail about each of these characteristics; please visit Writing at Master's Level for more information.

  • "Is literate" (Atherton, 2013, Heading 1)
  • "It is critical" (Atherton, 2013, Heading 4)
  • "It explores implicit values" (Atherton, 2013, Heading 4.1)
  • "It contextualizes" (Atherton, 2013, Heading 4.2)
  • "It pursues an argument" (Atherton, 2013, Heading 5)
  • "It is YOU" (Atherton, 2013, Heading 8)

Atherton goes on to say that,

writing at Master's level is a specialised activity or genre. It is "artificial" in the sense that it is adapted to a very specialised purpose, like legal drafting or even poetry. Its only other habitat is in the pages of academic journals. Most of the great works of literature, history, philosophy, and most official reports would not pass muster as M level writing. (para. 1)

This is worth repeating.

Many people who are very competent writers in their daily lives are reluctant to adopt the style of writing required in formal academic papers because they believe that it isn’t necessary to change their writing style. This reflects the “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” approach. Others go to the other extreme of (mis)using obscure vocabulary, convoluted syntax, and sentences that stretch into infinity in the belief that academic writing must be complicated. Good academic writing is actually very easy to read. The concepts may be challenging to grapple with, but the writing style should never make that process more difficult.