Back to School - Graduate Writing Center
Back to School
Nearly everyone who has been out of school for more than a few years can benefit from a basic skills refresher. Below are some resources to help you get on your feet quickly, whether you are a resident, international, or distance-learning student.
- Foundations of Academic Writing (website with videos) GWC, mandatory for all new students
- Workshops (in-person, webinar, video, and online modules) GWC and Dudley Knox Library
Choose from over 30 workshops based on your needs, including these back-to-school fundamentals:
- Mastery Series: Grammar, Punctuation, Clarity and Concision
- What (Nearly) Every Academic Paper Needs
- Debating with Your Sources: They Say/I Say
- Mastering Note-Taking and Time Management
- Organization: The Secret to Academic Writing
- Paraphrasing and Quoting Like a Pro
- Strategic Reading I and II
- Unlocking the Brain: Tips for Writer’s Block
As international students studying in the US, some of you may be more comfortable writing in English than others. Suggestions for success include drafting papers early, working to first develop a strong thesis and supporting arguments, and then smoothing out the English in subsequent drafts. Also, practice English wherever possible, not just in class or with your American classmates. This will be one of your biggest aids to better writing. Finally, ask for help early and often; we are here for you.
- International Students' Guide to Dudley Knox Library
- International Graduate Programs Office Course Catalog
- Multiple Language Learners (GWC resources)
When graduate students first begin a distance-learning program, the never-ending workload can come as a shock. Distance learners often have scores of other responsibilities in their lives—demanding work schedules, growing families, and ongoing community obligations—so at first it may be difficult to strike the right balance. The Naval Postgraduate School specializes in distance learning and has developed tools especially for our multitasking students.
A graduate course's syllabus and rubric encourages you to think critically—to look beyond the obvious. Graduate school improves your ability to create, critique, and synthesize arguments. As a military officer, you are responsible for people’s lives, so it is critically important that you objectively recognize your own biases and assumptions, as well as distinguish strong arguments from weaker ones. These resources can help you develop these skills.
- Critical Reading Checklist (website) University of Wollangong
- The Critical Thinking Community (website) The Foundation for Critical Thinking
- The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools (PDF) The Foundation for Critical Thinking
- Reverse Outline technique for critical thinking (video, 1:49), The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill
Taking lecture notes is not a passive exercise. You need to literally “lean in” to the lecturer to engage mentally with the concepts he or she is sharing. Key to this is taking notes by hand; studies have shown that writing down your notes versus typing increases both memory and understanding. Also look for the GWC's workshop "Mastering Note-Taking and Time Management," offered during the first few weeks of each quarter.
Strong presentation skills help you communicate your ideas clearly in academia and are crucial in leadership roles. Your speaking and presentation skills may determine whether your ideas, or the ideas and plans of the organization you represent, will be adopted. Compelling presentations require clear motivation, good organizational planning, and practice.
Active reading can save time by first reducing a piece of scholarly writing to its essential ingredients. When you read actively, you extract an author’s thesis and outline before reading the piece from beginning to end. Knowing the author’s intent up front allows you to focus on the quality of their arguments and evidence, and helps you read efficiently to solve the problem at hand.
From saying goodbye to the cramming myth and concentrating on what you know to acknowledging your nerves and rewriting questions on scratch paper, a combination of action and relaxation makes you ready to ace your tests!
- "How to Take Notes and Ace Tests" (GWC workshop video, 51:01)
- Test Taking Strategies (website) Saint Mary's College of California
- 6 Habits to Improve Your Memory and Boost Your Brain Health (website) Entrepreneur Magazine
It can be challenging to manage your class schedule and reserve time for study and writing, not to mention for family and recreation. Without a good plan, you may find yourself scrambling to keep up. Many resources are available to help you manage productivity. Some are as simple as making lists and daily reminders, while some rely on incorporating technology or motivation exercises. Find the method that works best for you.
- "Mastering Note-Taking and Time Management" (GWC workshop)
- "10 Awesome Productivity Apps to Help Manage Your Hectic Life" (website) Lifehack.org
- "A Short Guide to Managing Your Time" (video, 4:35) Oxford University
- "Where Do the Hours Go?" (website) gradPsych Magazine, American Psychological Association