Hone Your Literacy Skills with the Academic Writing Center

Written by Chris Pasion, graduate assistant to The Graduate School.

An overhead photo of a woman writing on a piece of paper and looking at her computer.

Graduate students are required to develop a unique set of literacy skills when to navigating the challenges of graduate-level writing. The readings we must get through to prepare for classes are piled high, and we must write at a proficient level to contribute scholarship to our given fields. Graduate writing comes in many forms as well, from dissertations and academic essays to resumes, CVs, and syllabi. Realizing this, the Academic Writing Center (AWC) is designing resources which are tailored specifically to the graduate student experience. These include a set of workshops that will sharpen your literacy skills to a fine-tuned edge and a tutoring service that will refine and polish whatever piece of writing you need help perfecting. 

Graduate Writing Workshops

Over the course of the fall semester, the AWC will be hosting eight workshops to help hone your writing, reading, and literacy skills. These hour-long workshops were created with all graduate students in mind; some workshops will be tailored to people at a particular phase in their graduate career, but anyone can benefit from the information being presented. Emily Cole, the graduate assistant and Learning Commons tutor who will be leading each of these sessions, says, “Obviously no two grad students are going to have the same experience, but all grad students have a particular arch to their academic careers.” The workshops are designed to address three common stages in the graduate career: calibrating to graduate school and the graduate level of academic writing, creating professional documents for the job search, and preparing for comprehensive exams or the dissertation/thesis.

The first three workshops will cover topics that will benefit anyone seeking help with reading strategies for graduate level academic writing. Are you finding that it’s difficult to understand and retain all of the information being thrown at you by a scholarly article? These first workshops, Graduate Reading Strategies and The Style of Graduate Writing I & II, are aimed at helping attendees (especially those that are new to graduate school) hone their reading skills to make pieces like these less intimidating. After those workshops, the series will change gears to focus on crafting professional documents such as resumes and CVs. The series will conclude with workshops on comprehensive exam strategies, literature reviews, and syllabi/course descriptions. Emily says, “We’re trying to build these workshops around the milestones that most graduate students have to hit in their academic careers.” The hour-long sessions are as follows: 

A close up shot of a few pencils.

Graduate Tutoring Services

In addition to the writing workshops, the AWC has a tutoring service which accepts submissions of writing that need another set of eyes. Tutors can meet with you both synchronously and asynchronously to accommodate your needs. Perhaps you just need someone to provide feedback by a certain date; you can submit the piece of writing to be reviewed by a tutor and sent back with feedback. If you need face-to-face help, you can also schedule an appointment on TutorTrac to meet with a tutor via WebEx and work through the piece of writing together. Emily, who is also a tutor at the writing center, says, “A lot of graduate students, I find, are looking for clarity. They want to know if their language is clear enough, and a lot of times they want to make sure it’s clear to a reader that isn’t in their field. That’s really fun for me, because I get to read all this research from other fields. It’s an interesting collaborative experience.”

The AWC is here to provide literacy resources to account for the unique challenges we face as graduate students. If you find that you’re struggling with graduate writing or reading, or just need some advice on getting your resume tack-sharp, the AWC ought to be your first stop. Emily says, “The AWC is here for grad students as much as it is for undergrads. I would love for more grad students to check us out and use us as a resource during this weird and difficult time we’re in.”