Many of you have received information from me about UMKC’s Graduate Student Writing Initiative. Some of you may be thinking, “There he goes again.” But stay with me, because the simple fact of the matter is that employers continue to rank writing and oral communication skills as often lacking in today’s graduates. I urge graduate students to access avenues of both oral and written communication excellence through our writing initiative. I recently learned that UMKC is one of the few higher education institutions that offers such diverse writing resources to graduate students. Conducting your research or learning more about your discipline is of limited value if you cannot communicate information to others, both within your field and with outside audiences. Thus, this issue of the Spotlight is a theme issue focusing on the Graduate Student Writing Initiative. In this issue you will read perspectives from alumni, students, librarian, writing specialist and the Director of the Writing Center.
As we engage in our second year of operation of the Graduate Student Writing Initiative, we have already seen a large number of successes with graduate students who have accessed our resources. We now have a half-time graduate writing specialist devoted just for you. Some of you may have noted that we have offered writing workshops focused on special topics such as grant writing or writing for the sciences. However, there are other opportunities to enhance your writing skills. Recently we had a packed “Write-In” at the Diastole Center on Hospital Hill where students spent an entire Saturday engaged in writing. Students brought in an assignment or project (e.g. thesis or dissertation section) and spent the day working with each other and the writing specialist sharing their writings and obtaining immediate feedback. During the Spring 2017 semester there will be more Write-Ins held at both the Volker and Hospital Hill campuses. Also equally successful have been writing groups where students continue to meet throughout the semester or year to write together and exchange ideas and feedback. Sharing your writing with fellow students is important as it is an opportunity to learn whether you have clearly communicated and followed writing conventions in your discipline.
Another resource we have are faculty mentors from the Emeritus College who, with their years of experience, will teach a student how to edit and proofread their work and make your paper better. Through a one-on-one mentoring process initiated by the student, you will learn how to organize and express your ideas to complete a writing project such as an article submitted for publication or a grant application.
In my career, a common mistake that graduate students make is underestimating the time it takes to write an effective paper. This is especially true for those who are doing a thesis or dissertation. A term paper or literature review is especially time consuming and here many students fall short in time estimation. However, learning how to write effectively can shorten the time it takes, result in fewer drafts and likely earn you a better grade. We will continue to offer writing workshop sessions on writing a literature review, thesis and dissertation formatting, and citation managers such as Zotero, in addition to proofreading tips and techniques.
If you don’t attend any of our sessions, remember that you can access many materials on how to write effectively through our Blackboard organization site. Video tutorials are also available.
Effective writing in your discipline not only makes you more competitive in the subject matter; but you will learn eventually that even your letter of application for employment will improve as well. The best part of this service is that there is no charge for you. Take advantage of the Graduate Student Writing Initiative this semester!