A key skill important for succeeding in graduate school and in your career is mastering your writing skills. Those who learn to write in a clear and concise, well-organized manner, to appropriately cite sources according to the requirements of their fields, and to develop a unique writer’s voice have a strong advantage in succeeding in graduate school and their careers.
Recently, Dr. Jennifer Friend, Assistant Dean, led a study to identify specific issues and writing resources for UMKC graduate students. Surveys and focus groups of graduate students and graduate faculty were part of the study. More than 500 graduate students and 142 faculty members provided feedback. We learned much from the feedback from these groups. Students and faculty provided suggestions as to what we as a University can do to help them with their writing, especially those writing a thesis or dissertation, but not exclusive to only these students.
A dedicated space for graduate student writing activities was a consistent theme obtained. Short courses, online tutorials, writing retreats and individual mentoring by skilled staff and faculty were some of the suggestions made.
A graduate student writing advisory committee has been formed to direct initiatives to enhance graduate student writing resources. To some extent this group parallels the undergraduate writing committee. The committee is composed of faculty, students, librarians and the Director of the UMKC Writing Studio.
Discussions with Director Thomas Ferrel of the Writing Studio led to an agreement to have dedicated space for graduate students in the Atterbury Student Success Center. Dedicated computers for graduate student writing, software for data analysis and scholarly writing, tables, and secure storage are planned to be added to the Writing Studio. Graduate students will be able to reserve time to work at the Writing Studio computer stations. One activity to help bring this project to a fruition, is a crowd funding initiative to begin in February 2015 to raise $6,000 to implement this plan. Faculty and students will see an announcement of this initiative shortly.
Another important resource we have proposed is a partnership with the Emeritus College where there are scores of retired faculty members who have a lifetime of experience in directing student writing. Emeriti Faculty will be invited to mentor graduate students with their writing and to help plan and facilitate writing workshops and retreats.
The Spring 2015 semester will include the launch of a new web page on the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) website with graduate student writing resources (see “Current Students” menu), and a Blackboard organization site available for all graduate students. Information related to on-campus and online resources for graduate writing will be available through the Blackboard site and the SGS website. A key element that students felt was important is the ability to share with each other their own drafts of writing for peer feedback. The Blackboard site includes space for students to form on-campus and online peer writing groups. A good example of an online tutorial recently developed on plagiarism is available to view at: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLbZAvlhoDIXxSGs1ljqR8X7C2a_JwrDV0
Future plans include the development of additional online tutorials such as: creating research questions, formatting and editing requirements, plagiarism prevention, how to write a proposal/thesis/dissertation, technical and scientific writing, writing a literature review, discipline specific writing, grant writing, and submission of articles for publication. The Committee will develop a guide on available UMKC Writing Resources, and explore the possibility of having the School of Graduate Studies supply a GTA to help with the activities at the Writing Studio to lead these efforts.