Monthly Archives: July 2016

Writing in Graduate School

If you’ve already been accepted to graduate school, we’ve got good news for you: your writing skills were strong enough to get your application past the admissions committee. But this doesn’t mean you can just kick back and coast on what worked during your undergraduate studies. Not only will more be expected of you during your pursuit of an advanced degree, but there’s also likely to be a thesis in your future. The takeaway? The time is now to sharpen up your writing skills. Let’s count down six tips aimed at ensuring that your writing is on point in graduate school.

1. Convey Your Expertise
Graduate students are training to be experts in their field. This expertise should be exemplified by your writing. Your language should be direct, confident and authoritative in order to foster a sense of trust with your readers.

Other ways to assemble a cogent argument? Avoid first person tense whenever possible; employ transition words and phrases; and pay attention to sentence structure. Two true hallmarks of graduate level writing? Clarity and control.

2. Make Writing Routine
We’ve all heard the expression “practice makes perfect.” This is no more true than when it comes to graduate level writing. Making time to write regularly will not only help you develop critical thinking and writing skills, but can also be an invaluable confidence booster.

Establishing a writing routine is particularly beneficial when it comes to working on your thesis. Many graduate students wait too long to start writing and end up rushing through the process. This can lead to everything from an underdeveloped argument to lack of proper formatting. Avoid this pitfall by setting a schedule for writing as you go…and by committing to stick with it.

3. Know Your Reader
Any piece of writing should keep one overarching question in mind: Who is the audience and why are they reading your writing? In addition to clearly presenting your ideas, keep in mind that your thesis is an original contribution to your particular discipline. Make sure your reader knows what to expect by including “signposts” — such as a table of contents, abstract, introductory paragraphs, etc. — along the way to help guide your reader. Each sentence should relate in some way to your overall argument.

4. Seek Feedback
While graduate level writing is largely an individual effort, there’s plenty of help to be found if you know where to look. For starters, your advisor can be an amazing resource when it comes to “big picture” issues, such as selecting a topic and refining your thesis. In addition to helping identify your paper’s strengths, your advisor can also help suss out your weaknesses thereby preventing you from venturing too far in the wrong direction.

Your fellow grad students, meanwhile, can offer editing and proofreading assistance. And while finding someone in your field can be particularly useful — especially if you’re writing about a complex or scientific subject — friends and family members can also offer a helpful second (or third or fourth) pair of eyes.

Inspire You During Your Degree

Thomas Edison famously declared genius to be “one percent inspiration and ninety-percent perspiration.” And it’s true: Even the world’s most celebrated minds didn’t have easy or obvious paths. The fact is that no matter how smart you are, true success requires many things, including hard work and perseverance. Let’s take a closer look at five famous scientists who set inspiring examples during their lifetimes.

1. Writer’s Block: Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin took a staggering 17 years to pen his magnus opus, “On the Origin of Species.” One thing that helped him stay the course during that time span? He established and stuck to a routine. While he set plenty of time aside for writing, he also designated time for other pursuits — including exercise, spending time with his family and dog, and gardening. In fact, according to an article on Darwin’s schedule in The Guardian, Darwin put “domestic comfort” above all else while writing.

Another thing that kept Darwin on track? An emotional connection with his subject matter. He once said, “It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds. With birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.”

Your takeaway? Writing at a breakneck pace may not be as fruitful as you think. Darwin himself described the writing process as “very hard and slowly at every sentence,” but by prioritizing his personal life and maintaining a realistic schedule, he ended up writing the seminal book on evolution.

2. Applying a Theory: Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton is among the 17th century’s most influential scientists, and his groundbreaking work is now the foundation for modern physics. Many experts posit that his true genius lay not in the theories themselves, but in how Newton applied them to the universe at large. And while he may not have come up with the concept of gravity after an apple fell on his head, as the legend insists, he did doggedly attack the theory of gravity, coming at it with great determination from every possible angle.

Of his process Newton once said, “I was like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

In other words, being willing and open to all possibilities can help you be more original and innovative when proposing and applying theories.

3. For Paving a Path: Marie Curie
There will be times in your life when people tell you that you can’t or won’t accomplish something. When they do, keep Marie Curie in mind. A pioneer in the field of radioactivity, she was not only the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize, but was also the only person to receive the award twice and in two different sciences! She was also the first female professor at the University of Paris — all at a time when the contributions of women were largely devalued.

Curie herself once said, “One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.”

We can think of no better philosophy for forging your way — both during your degree and for life in general — than this one.

4. For Being Open to Learning: Leonardo Da Vinci
The question isn’t what Leonardo Da Vinci did. It’s more what he didn’t do. From architect and anatomist to sculptor and scientist, Da Vinci is perhaps most famous for his mysterious painting of the Mona Lisa. But his discoveries about human anatomy were also huge, and approximately 200 years ahead of their time. Da Vinci also sketched concepts for everything from helicopters to plate tectonics with a list of inventions including musical instruments, crank mechanisms, hydraulic pumps, and even a steam cannon.

The lesson for the rest of us? Don’t limit yourself. Be open to learning and be open-minded while you’re at it. Da Vinci himself once said, “The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.”

5. For Overcoming the Odds: Caroline Herschel
Marie Curie may be the most famous female scientist, but she was far from the first. Born in the mid-1700s in Hanover, Germany, Herschel began her career as as singer but eventually followed her passion and become a brilliant astronomer. She was the first woman to discover a comet and went on to discover several more, including one now named in her honor.

And while Herschel largely worked in the shadow of her fellow astronomer brother, she claimed many amazing accomplishments on her own, including being the first woman paid for her scientific work and being named an Honorary Member of the Royal Astronomical Society. On her 96th birthday, meanwhile, the King of Prussia presented Herschel with a Gold Medal for Science.

While each of these scientists had very different stories, the overarching theme is the same. Not only were they geniuses, but they strove to apply that genius in world-changing ways. In following their example, you just may chart a pretty impressive course of your own.

Master Without Going Into Debt

unduhan-11Hardly a day goes by without another report of soaring student debt or rising tuition fees. And if a university education wasn’t already expensive, many students are finding that an undergraduate degree isn’t enough. But graduate school isn’t cheap (between $10-25K in the US and about £8K in the UK per year) and even when a master’s will increase a student’s employability or improve their potential salary, taking out more student loans or finding the cash to pay for another two to five years of schooling are hardly pleasant prospects. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid further debt or abject poverty during your graduate degree. Here are five ways to fund your master’s degree.

1. Scholarships
If you thought that scholarships and grants were only for undergraduates, think again. There are numerous scholarships aimed at funding post-graduate studies – you just need to know where to look. If you’re already enrolled in a program, visit your school’s financial aid department and ask for information on scholarships specific to your course or department. It should go without saying, but the internet is your friend when it comes to graduate funding. Sites like gograd.org, thescholarshiphub.org.uk, and scholarship-searcg.org.uk let students search for funding based on degree level, course, and even specific individual qualifications like gender or military service. Minority students should check the McNair Scholars Program.

2. Research Grants
Grants are a bit more specialized than scholarships and may take a bit more effort, but they have the added benefit of counting towards career development, especially if you plan on going into an academic or research career. Again, start with your institution and look for research or project grants aimed at your degree. Many departments have grant funding for graduate students to complete specialized training, travel for research, or purchase necessary supplies or equipment. Ask your professors or advisors – they may already have (or may be applying) for funding and will be seeking research assistants. Use the internet to find subject-based grants: health science graduates should visit the National Institute of Health’s funding site, while students perusing master’s in the humanities or social sciences can use h-net.org.

3. Study Abroad
Studying abroad is often viewed as expensive, but for grad students, it can be a smart, economical choice. While students in the UK and the US can expect to pay thousands of pounds or dollars a year for graduate studies, many countries offer master’s degrees at little to no cost for both domestic and international students. Scandinavia and western Europe are prime destinations for thrifty grad students – tuition is free in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, while students pay nominal fees in Germany, France, and Spain. Outside Europe, look to Singapore, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa for low-cost tuition as well as a low cost of living.

4. Assistantships and Fellowships
One often overlooked way of funding your graduate studies is through an assistantship or fellowship. Many universities offer reduced or free tuition to grad students who agree to perform research or teaching assistant duties during their studies. While this will increase your responsibilities during your studies, teaching or assisting with research can be incredibly valuable once you’ve completed your degree. Before applying for graduate school, take some time to research the assistantship opportunities at your top choices and don’t forget to consider some smaller, less well-known programs where competition for positions might be less rigorous but the quality of scholarship is just as prestigious.

5. Work and Study
And finally, if you’re unsure whether grad school is the right course of action and are concerned about the cost, consider waiting a bit. Once you’ve worked in your field for a period of time, you’ll have a better idea about the value of a graduate degree and the course of study that will be most beneficial to your career. As a bonus, many companies and employers offer career development subsidies for employees who want to earn a post-graduate certificate or degree. This is an ideal course of action for business students, early-career educators, and other fields where graduate degrees improve your salary potential but may be viewed as over-qualification for an entry-level position.