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What are the Distinguishing Characteristics of Graduate-Level Writing?

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Mar 31, 2009   #1
Writing skills become a more fundamental aspect of attending graduate school than they ever were while an undergraduate. Often, graduate school means bidding adieu to the multiple-choice tests that examine one's ability to recognize the correct answer. Instead, graduate school is designed to test one's ability to recall, identify, examine, and explain the correct answer. Writing is utilized more often throughout graduate school and graduate students are made readily aware that their writing skills are constantly being assessed. And if one is to pursue a doctorate, his/her writing skills must be up to task of completing a dissertation and defending that dissertation and its presentation to questions posed by potential future colleagues. Thus, an individual's propensity to write clear and concise papers must be exercised and perfected in order to succeed in graduate school. The following are some characteristics that are essential in graduate-level dissertation and PhD thesis writing.

Knowledge of Different Citation Styles. The graduate student must be adept in using different types of citation styles. Depending upon what the graduate student's major is, he/she will be required to implement a specified way of referencing other's texts within his/her own. In being aware of the different citation styles that exist, the graduate student can ensure that he/she is correctly utilizing the approved style. Furthermore, writing that lacks coherent citations is often construed as writing that is substandard and the author's credibility is diminished when other texts are not cited properly. When a graduate student fails to cite other texts that have been used, this is considered to be plagiarism.

The Thesis or Topic is Addressed in an Organized and Coherent Manner. The thesis or topic that is presented within a paper must be supported throughout the paper. Also, the paper must follow an organized system of presenting and evaluating supporting evidence. While some students may mistakenly believe that evidence provided in a paper needs no further explanation as to how it supports the thesis, the connection may not be as clear to an outside reader. Evidence should clearly be explained as to how it supports the thesis. The information contained within the paper should also be organized so that it follows a logical train of thought with an understandable progression and transition from idea to idea.

Sufficient Research Has Been Conducted Regarding the Thesis. A thesis cannot be proven using only one source of information. The graduate student must engage in rigorous research that attempts to fully explicate the thesis. Additionally, the graduate student must be knowledgeable of the appropriate sources to use when searching for evidence. Sources must be chosen based on their credibility and the extent to which the research conducted supports the thesis. The research that is conducted should be from a variety of sources and methodologies to ensure that the conclusions reached are unquestionable in their validity and applicability.

The Composition of the Paper Demonstrates Original and Critical Thinking. The conclusions or theories that the paper posits should be innovative. Likewise, the methods that the graduate student uses to arrive at these conclusions should be creative in their approach and not simply the reiteration of earlier papers addressing the same topic. The graduate student should be able to critically evaluate all the sources that have been cited within the paper in such a way that they are fully explained and integrated into the paper's thesis. The creativity that is used when writing a paper ultimately results in insightful writing that effectively analyzes the different dimensions of the thesis and ultimately results in profound and meaningful statements regarding the nature of the conclusion. Finally, the paper's composition should reflect the author's individual and unique writing style.

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