Tips for Writing Your First Graduate Paper

When I stepped into my first graduate class at Simmons School of Management, I did not know what to expect. My undergraduate days seemed far in the distance at that point, and I felt that I was walking in to it blindfolded.

The professor started the class going through the syllabus, and an overview of the assignments we would complete during the semester. It wasn't until a few weeks later, that I received my first paper assignment. Looking at the assignment - a slight panic consumed me. I realized that I hadn't written a paper in close to 5 years. My mind began to race as I was trying to remember back to how I started my papers, and formatted them back when I was in undergraduate studies. I knew I had to walk away from the assignment for a few days before I started it.

Four days before the assignment was due, I picked up the piece of paper that outlined the instructions and expectations of the paper that was due next class. The assignment asked us to speak to how different styles/blends of families shape how we communicate to the rest of the world. The expectation was to tie in the reading assignments we had completed recently surrounding the cultural presence of nuclear and extended families. This needed to be completed in 3-5 pages maximum. After breathing heavily for a few minutes to calm myself down as I was to embark on writing my first graduate paper, I thought back to what helped me successfully work through all my undergraduate papers.

Here are my five tips for conquering your first graduate paper:

1)     Make an outline: One way to help gather your thoughts is to create an outline of your paper. Highlight what you want to focus on throughout the paper and break down each section of the paper. Fill in the content later.

2)     Research: If you need to make references to your textbook or back up your argument with facts outside your textbook - start pinpointing where in the textbook it makes mention of your topic as well as researching online. The more research/backup you have at your fingertips - the easier it will be to fill the pages you need full of content and substance. Plus - your professors love to see when you fully support your argument with hard facts.

3)     Do not wait until the last minute: Waiting to write your paper the night before it is due is a major no no. It is a recipe for disaster! Try to organize and break up the work load between the time you first receive the assignment to when it is due. Professors at the graduate level are not as kind when it comes to grading and can tell right away when a student wrote it the night before.

4)     Take breaks: When you are drafting your paper - do not be afraid to walk away from it. It allows you to come back to it with a fresh perspective if you are suffering from writer's block.

5)     Edit, Edit, Edit: Your first draft is not the paper you want to turn in to your professor. Edit your first draft multiple times. Have a friend look over your paper. The more eyes, the better. The more drafts - the better the writing.

Although many of these tips are well known by many - placing them into practice will allow you to triumph over what can be seen as overwhelming. Try some of these tips today!