Meghan Hancock, Assistant Director for Graduate Writing
Here at the U of L Writing Center, we work with a lot of graduate students on their master’s theses or dissertations. These are always fun for us, as they give us the chance to not only hone our own skills in helping students with larger projects, but also the chance to learn about the up and coming research of U of L graduate students across the disciplines.
You don’t have to wait until you’re working on your culminating project, though (and in this context I’m talking about master’s theses or dissertations), to come to us as a graduate student. The writing you do during your coursework can be challenging as well, and we’re here to help!
As a fellow graduate student myself, I know how difficult coursework can be. We’re often juggling coursework with responsibilities as TA’s teaching several courses at once, with our work as research assistants, with our time in a work-study position, or sometimes even balancing coursework with a full time job while taking care of our families. In other words, we have a lot on our plates. Finding the time, then, to dedicate to weekly seminar course preparation as well as the time needed to research and write toward a seminar paper due at the end of a semester can be difficult. Not only this—sometimes (when you’re a new graduate student especially) you might be encountering some of the writing genres expected of you for the first time. I remember, for instance, how lost I felt when I had to write my first seminar paper. Was it the same as the research papers I had to do as an undergraduate, or were there differences that I didn’t know about?
This is where consultants at the Writing Center can help. We’re familiar with those genres. Your coursework (while often thought of as something to get out of the way before you begin your degree’s culminating project) is the time when you learn how to write within your discipline and enter the scholarly conversation others in your field have begun. Coming to the Writing Center to work on things like seminar papers, then, might give you some insight on your writing as a graduate student that will help you when it comes time to write your thesis or dissertation. Many of the elements of a typical seminar paper, like a short review of relevant scholarship, critical engagement with sources, and a semi-original argument that contributes to your chosen field in some way, will also be expected in your thesis or dissertation. It helps to start working on these skills sooner rather than later. In other words, it’s never too late to try the Writing Center if you’re a graduate student!