By Emily K. Tudorache
If you’re thinking about going to graduate school, I’m sure you have a list of misgivings as long as the thesis you’d be expected to write. Pursuing a graduate degree can be a challenging endeavor, partly due to the volume and type of writing involved in graduate school. Lucky for you, the University Writing Center has plenty of graduate students on staff who have been there before and can help any current or prospective grad student tackle the obstacles ahead. To get you started, I interviewed one of my graduate student colleagues about her writing process; maybe her answers can help you quell those anxious thoughts.
Kari is pursuing her M.A. in English with a focus on postcolonial literature. She hopes to work for a non-profit before (maybe) going back to school to earn her PhD. I asked her some questions about her experiences writing and researching in graduate school.
- What kind of writing do you have to do in your field?
I usually have to write typical analysis essays, but conference papers, which are 10 page conversational pieces usually presented at academic conferences, are also common. I do find myself writing 20-25 page papers as final projects for classes that may be geared toward becoming an article for an academic journal in a topic I am interested in.
- What kind of environment do you prefer to be in while conducting research and writing your paper? Do they differ? Why or why not?
I like to research and write in two main places: home or in a quiet place, like a library or my office. I prefer to do my research at a library, so I can check out books as I go. I think it’s important to try to break away from online sources because print sources have so much to offer. For the rest of the process, I like to switch up my location, especially during longer research papers, otherwise the work can become monotonous.
- If you could describe your typical writing process in a few steps, how would you sum it all up?
My first step is to start with jotting down any and all of my ideas, usually in a list format. I then pull out a few resources to get started but hold off on using them until I have fleshed out my analysis. My third step is to focus on drafting 3 pages a day until I have a full draft for the desired length of the paper. After that, I focus on revision, so I don’t need to stress about reaching the page count during the fine-tuning of the paper.
- For you, what is the most daunting part about writing in graduate school?
For me, just starting and getting those first few pages done is the most daunting task because, even though I write papers all the time, it’s still nerve-wracking to think about all that goes into such a project. I tend to second-guess my ideas before I really get started.
- What do you wish you had been taught in undergrad before going into grad school? If you had any advice for the aspiring graduate student what would it be?
My advice for a first-semester grad student is that grad school may be daunting but don’t forget that you didn’t just get in on a fluke—you earned your place. For the aspiring grad student, it’s good to find a faculty mentor who can guide you in the process and help you with your application by making suggestions and writing letters of recommendation. Look for that personal connection.