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Strategies for supervising graduate student writing


Despite the central role of writing in determining the success of Master’s and PhD students, there has traditionally been little explicit instruction in or sustained professional attention to writing during graduate education. Those fortunate enough to have conscientious and articulate supervisors may learn under their tutelage, and others improve by forming writing groups or otherwise soliciting critical feedback. But most scholars who become proficient writers do so by a process of osmosis, observation, and trial and error.

This lack of attention to writing during graduate education creates a double problem: first, for students struggling to meet the heavy writing demands of Master’s and PhD programs and, second, for new scholars who suddenly find themselves having to supervise their own graduate students without benefit of adequate preparation for that difficult and critical task.

2010 workshop resources

The following resources are based off of a 2010 workshop on strategies designed to move graduate students through the early stages of writing and on to the more advanced stages of editing and revising.

They include ways to help students develop writing goals and plans, generate and organize ideas, consider readers and rhetorical strategies, and polish texts for submission. They also outline methods for managing the supervisory relationship, including establishing and maintaining a working partnership, setting and enforcing deadlines, dealing with crises, and offering useful feedback.

Strategies for Supervising Graduate Student Writing (presentation slides)

Supervision of Graduate Writing Session Q&As.

Additional Resources

Writing Groups

 Encouraging students to work together can help alleviate pressure on both the student and the supervisor. Writing groups encourage this type of peer cooperation. If you are interested in starting a writing group for your graduate students, please refer to the Strategies for productive writing groups.