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Approaches to Writing. A Division of Graduate Education Seminar. Graduate Writing Tutor. Mission: to improve the quality of graduate writing that leaves Montana State University. The “Writing Process”. Brainstorming Organizing Outlining Drafting Revising Polishing. Brainstorming.

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approaches to writing

Approaches to Writing

A Division of Graduate Education Seminar

graduate writing tutor
Graduate Writing Tutor

Mission: to improve the quality of graduate writing that leaves Montana State University

the writing process
The “Writing Process”
  • Brainstorming
  • Organizing
  • Outlining
  • Drafting
  • Revising
  • Polishing

“He is the greatest artist who has embodied, in the sum of his works, the greatest number of the greatest ideas.”

-- John Ruskin

this is your brain on paper
This is your Brain, on Paper
  • A way to quickly generate ideas.
  • Ideas may or may not be related to your thesis topic.
  • A good approach to generate your actual thesis statement.
  • A way to get “unstuck” when you’re stalled.
  • Techniques include flow charts (like the one above), note cards, furious note-taking, and stream-of-consciousness writing.

“Remember, America, organization will set you free.”

-- Alton Brown

laying a foundation
Laying a Foundation
  • Separate the “wheat from the chaff.”
  • Sort the leftovers into useable groups that support your thesis.
  • Try different numbering systems to keep like ideas together.
  • Remember, don’t throw anything away. You never know when it will become useful again.

“The beginning of an acquaintance whether with persons or things is to get a definite outline of our ignorance.”

-- George Eliot

a sketch of your paper
A Sketch of Your Paper
  • Useful for seeing things on a paper-wide level
  • A way of looking at how your different points balance against each other
  • It’s handy to have one either as a reference while writing or to just start typing your paper in the outline.

“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems like a good idea for a later place … give it, give it all, give it now.”

-- Annie Dillard

the easiest part
The “Easiest” Part
  • Let all your ideas flow onto the page.
  • Remember, drafting can be a form of thought or research. It can take you in directions you never imagined or lead you to new discoveries.

“No single bad writing habit is so powerful as the habit of typing an essay only when you are ready to turn it in.”

-- Richard Lanham

shaping and polishing
Shaping and Polishing

What do I look for?

How many times?

Realistically, look to completely revise your draft at least twice.

Remember to take a break when you need it. Long revising sessions can make you blind to many problems with your paper.

  • Missing content (quotations, connective material, citations)
  • Efficient paragraph order
  • Wordy passages
  • Word choice
  • Tone
  • Finally, worry about grammar, typos, spelling, formatting, and the “look” of the paper.
  • Use a handbook or style guide:
    • The Elements of Style (Strunk/White)
    • Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace (Williams)
    • A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Turabian et al.)
the paramedic method
The Paramedic Method

Paramedic Method (Necessities)

Paramedic Method (Extras)

Write out each sentence on a blank sheet of paper and mark off its rhythmic units with a /.

Mark off sentence lengths in the passage with a /.

Read the passage aloud with emphasis and feeling.

  • Circle the prepositions
  • Circle “is” forms.
  • Ask “who is kicking who?”
  • Put this “kicking” action in a simple, active verb.
  • Start fast -- no mindless introductions.
final quick tips
Final Quick Tips
  • Write from a process. When you’re stalled, it’s something to fall back on.
  • Work on your project a little bit every day.
  • Meet with your committee early and often. Better small changes along the way than major revisions at the end.
  • Read aloud, or have someone read your paper to you.
  • Cut down on “to be” verbs, prepositions, and jargon. Don’t use a five dollar word where a five cent word will do.
  • Make an appointment with the Graduate Writing Tutor!
  • Call 994-5315 to make an appointment.
  • Appointments are available Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • E-mail consultations are also available. Write to for more info.
  • This is a FREE service offered by the DGE.
  • Thanks for coming!