The MLS Student Handbook

Writing

For a detailed discussion of writing a paper, see the MLS Writing and Style Guide by Dr. Chris Crawford.

Writing is a key skill. As a graduate student entering the MLS program, you should already have some facility for writing well.  You should expect the standard of writing to be noticeably higher in graduate school than it was in undergraduate education.  Technical proficiency (spelling, punctuation, etc.), sophistication of analysis, clarity of thought, and fluidity of writing should already be at a fairly high level.  Graduate school will give you opportunities to sharpen and improve your writing skills.

There is not just one right way to write.  You may, however, find the use of an outline to be helpful.  Some tips on writing:
    1. If you struggle to write the introduction, start writing the paper or essay in the middle - or the end.
    2. If you are unable to aptly express your thought,
       Ask: “what point do I want to make?”  Then write it down.  Once it is written, ask: “can I say it better?”
       Ask: "how would I explain this to my ____?"
                child, significant other, friend, parent, workmate
       Put something on paper, then improve it.
    3. Does your writing 'flow' or is it disjointed?
    4. Is your analysis sound?
    5. Do you have a good introduction and conclusion?
    6. What about the more technical matters such as spilling ears (get it?), punctuation, past and present tense, etc.?
    7.Print your first draft, let it sit on your desk for at least half an hour, then find a red pencil and pretend that you are an English teacher.
    8. Let someone else critique your work.  Give him or her a dollar for each mis-spelled word or each incorrect punctuation that he or she finds.
    9. Revise.  Look especially for areas where your analysis is not adequately developed your argument isn't clear you 'read in' to the essay
        something that is in your head but not on the page.
    10. Be neither harried or hurried.  You can be fast, though.
    11. When you read, take note of what makes one writer good and another writer not as good.  The point is not to try to adopt another person's style,
           but to apply what you learn as you develop your own distinctive style of writing.

If you have not already acquired a dictionary or a thesaurus, get a very good dictionary and a very good thesaurus. Place them on your bookshelf in your study room. 

Resources that you may find useful:

Diana Hacker. 2000. A Pocket Style Manual, Third Edition. Boston, Massachusetts: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

            Arthur Plotnik. 1982. The Elements of Editing  A Modern Guide for Editors and Journalists. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

            Alfred Rosa and Paul Eschholz. 1996. The Writer’s Brief Handbook. Boston and London: Allyn and Bacon.

            Margaret Shertzer. 1986. The Elements of Grammar. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

            William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. 1979. The Elements of Style, Third Edition. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.

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