Both the academic and professional environments continue to grow more competitive with each passing year. As a result of this increased level of competition, a greater number of students are deciding to continue their education beyond the undergraduate level. This is all well and good, and these students should be commended for striving for the highest levels of achievement. However, recent studies indicate that the average student writing ability, including those students going on to graduate school, has reached a startlingly low level of competency. For that reason, the following information is provided, in hopes that students at the graduate level can improve their writing ability correspondingly.
Graduate-Level Vs. Undergraduate-Level: What’s the difference?
Technically speaking, there are no specific rules of writing that differentiate graduate-level work from undergraduate-level. However, there does exist an unspoken division between graduate level and undergraduate-level writing based upon the expectations of university professors. Professors expect writing assignments at the graduate level to be of a higher quality. Many of the mistakes that professors would allow at the undergraduate level are not tolerated once the graduate level has been reached. Graduate-level writing needs to be perfectly clear, concise, and free from common errors.
Writing at a Higher Level: Areas of Concern
The following principles of writing must be addressed in order for the work to be of “graduate level.” By adhering to these principles and ensuring that these guidelines are met, the student’s work is much more likely to be considered graduate-level.
- Separate and identify your beliefs from that of your research – One major difference between graduate and undergraduate writing is that, at the graduate level, writing assignments are rarely expected to be just a rehashing of previous research. Instead, graduate-level writing is meant to be an exercise in critical thinking and personal analysis on the part of the student. Be sure to state very clearly your own ideas and beliefs on the writing topic, and separate them from those found in your research. Even if they happen to be identical, you must still differentiate them within the writing.
- State the reasons for writing early – It is important that the reader understand what the writer is trying to accomplish early on. Do not spend too much space building up to a thesis statement. Rather, state your purpose early on and use as much space as possible solidifying that statement.
- Define all ambiguous or potentially confusing terms – Whether this applies to a difficult word or technical jargon that can only be understood by experts in a specific field, make sure to define all terms that your reader may have difficulty with. Assume that the reader has zero knowledge on the subject, and that it is your job to make sure he or she walks away from reading your paper with a full understanding of the topic.
- Use quotes correctly – Too many academic writers depend far too heavily upon quotations to flesh out their writing and make their points. This is a sure sign of undergraduate-level writing. Graduate-level writing uses quotes in such a way that they enhance the writing, not carry it. When using quotes, be sure to state your own ideas in relation to the quote, introduce the person who is being quoted and what qualifications make his or her quote worth considering, and document the quote in whatever academic style of writing you are using.
- Transitions are essential – A graduate-level piece of writing should flow smoothly from start to finish. To achieve this, the writer must use transitions to connect ideas together and also to connect each paragraph to the one that follows it.
- Form a strong conclusion – This should really go without saying, but the writer must form a strong conclusion for the writing to be considered anywhere near graduate-level.