A Blog of Writing Resources from The University of Scranton's Writing Center

Category: Resources for Graduate Students (Page 1 of 2)

Writing a Paper for a Conference

Conferences are ideal ways to connect with professionals in your field and increase your visibility within your discipline. They are wonderful opportunities for professional development and presenting at conferences can be crucial lines for your CV.  However, crafting a paper to be accepted and later presented at a conference is a unique art. Here’s some of our favorite resources to guide you through the process.


1.) How to write a conference paper

2.) What to avoid when crafting a conference paper.

3.) Some possible templates to help you draft your conference paper:

4.) Here’s a sample conference paper

Our Favorite Resource for Literature Reviews

Our favorite resource for literature reviews was created by The University of Waterloo.  First, these modules define what literature reviews are, where they appear, and  why they are beneficial. The website talks about discipline-specific writing conventions and the different organizational approaches. Then, it walks writers through the process of composing literature reviews in a highly visual and interactive guide.  The images, in particular, can help writers understand the various forms of knowledge gaps. Ultimately, this is  a quick but highly beneficial resource that can guide novice writers who are unfamiliar with the conventions of literature reviews.  

      1.  Here’s the entire guide
      2. Here’s the recommended writing  schedule
      3. Here’s an annotated sample paper
      4. Here’s a template to help guide your writing process 

Did You Know That There’s an Online Tool for Passive Voice?

Did you know that there’s a  free online “To-Be” verb analyzer?

If you copy and paste small chunks of your final paper into this online tool, it will identify any sentences written in Passive Voice so you can find those instances quickly and correct them by adjusting the subject of your sentence. It’s a great tool to find passive sentences. However, you still need to fix each individual sentence.  Check it out here!


Using a Research Log

A research log is a tool to help you organize, analyze, and evaluate sources  as you begin to gather information about a topic. It typically consists of a  table with labels across the top that serve as a set of instructions when approaching a new source.  Filling out each column helps you gather the information you need for your project.  For example, you’ll need to include the full-citation in your research log, which will allow to to copy and paste the full citation into your completed draft later. You also need to include what makes the source credible, so you’ll remember to check if it’s peer-reviewed or scholarly. That information will become important later as you determine which of your sources should be included in your draft based off their relevance and credibility. Perhaps you’ll have some sources in the log that support your argument, but they come from low quality sources. Comparing the credibility will help you make those choices.  Most importantly, a research log lets you  place all of your evidence in one spot so can easily compare data from each source. The table will ensure that you don’t confuse your sources or accidentally plagiarize by crediting a fact to a different  source. Finally, there’s a space for you to analyze the evidence in the log and link it to your main argument.

There’s two major reasons for using a research log :

1.) It will keep you organized.   Rather than jotting notes in a notebook, filling in the required information for each column in a research log will ensure you’ve collected the needed information before moving on to the next source. You won’t have to keep returning to previous sources or struggle to remember how you found a source because your search terms and databases are in the log. You’ll also never lose a source or forget where a quote came from.

2) It will help you compare  your evidence. Having the evidence from all of  the sources in one place lets you look at the data side-by-side to evaluate which items would be best to include in your paper. Looking at all of the evidence in a research log can also help you refine your thesis before you begin drafting.

If you have to write a paper that requires research, this tool can save you a significant amount of time, and it could eliminate stress later on in your writing process.

Here’s a template for a Research Log



A Literature Review Matrix

A matrix is a tool that allows you to quickly compare and contrast  multiple sources by placing their aims,  methods, and findings in  one chart.  These tables  allow you to see similarities or distinctions in methodologies, limitations, and findings in studies with related aims so you can look at a field more globally to identify a  niche to explore, or a new direction to pursue, or a potential knowledge gap. By comparing multiple sources through this method you can quickly identify commonalities and key differences that will allow you to propose a unique thesis or a potential research design for future inquiry. While you do not have to use a matrix to write a literature review, it is a great resource in seeing relationships between studies, and it becomes more essential as you examine more and more sources.

Here is an example of a matrix  with common elements; however, the categories of a matrix are usually dependent on the specific discipline, so feel free to adjust this document  in a way that best serves your research.

Literature Review Matrix



A Quick Tool for Building Your Vocabulary and Eliminating Redundancy

We all have our favorite phrases and “go-to” words.  I often find myself repeating these words multiple times in a single paragraph:

Thought Reversals: “however,” “although,”

Thought Extensions: “also”, “and it states”

Interpreting Statements: “so”, “this means that”

On my first draft, the repetition doesn’t matter, but when I start revising, I have to rethink each of those sentences so that I’m not redundant—I want to show that I can articulate my thoughts in a variety of ways to keep my reader engaged.

I’ve found that most college freshmen struggle with building their vocabulary and minimizing the usage of their “go-to” words and phrases.  Your vocabulary will grow naturally as you read and become familiar with expressions in your discipline.

However, if the paper is due tomorrow, you may not have that sort of time.  You need some tools to expedite that process.

One my favorite tools to eliminate redundancy is https://www.wordhippo.com/. 

Here’s why  . . .

  1. You can pull up synonyms, antonyms, definitions, examples of usage, and the most common forms of usage by searching for a single keyword.
  2. The synonym search works well: it’s broken down by the possible definitions of the original word, and it generates several synonyms on each search.
  3. You can search for both words and phrases, though it works better with just words.
  4. Everything is hyperlinked! If you find a new word that’s a synonym, you can click on it to check the definition so that you’re using the new word correctly in your context.
  5. If you want to use a word that’s unfamiliar to you,  you can click to have the word pronounced correctly for you.
  6. There’s a “See Also” section that further explains how to use the word in grammatically correct formations.
  7. Are you taking a poetry writing class? Or maybe you want to embellish a paper with some poetics? This site will generate rhymes for your words and phrases, too.

However,  this website is ultimately just a machine pulling up prewritten data—keep that in mind.  That means it doesn’t give you the connotations for the specific keyword (so if you are replacing a negatively charged word like “stuffy,” you may accidently insert a positively charged word like “cozy”. ) It also doesn’t say if the synonym has any slight differences from the original word on the landing page, and that could lead to using words that don’t express exactly what you mean.  Last, it doesn’t work well with field-specific vocabulary.

Still, I’d recommend this resource for eliminating word-choice redundancy, and you’ll find that as you search for more and more words, you’ll acquire more and more words.


Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is that feeling of “I don’t belong here” specifically because “I don’t know enough.” It’s a common type of anxiety experienced by graduate students as novice experts in their field.  It can prevent students from making the most of their educational experience because they are afraid to try new things or attempt challenges for fear of judgement. They feel like a fraud, and worry that someone will realize they’re a fraud, even though that’s not true.  If you are accepted into a graduate program, you deserve to be there. You have earned your place there, even if you sometimes feel  out of place there.

It’s important to remember that this feeling is common when you are surrounded by academics who are experts in the field and who have had years to hone their skill-sets. It’s unfair to compare yourself to them or to others in your program.    Sometimes the feeling is so intense that it becomes a barrier that cripples a student’s academic performance.  Check out the resources below to learn how to manage and overcome “Imposter Syndrome.”

Here’s an article that describes the common symptoms of Imposter Syndrome and how to combat them.  

This is an infographic with some suggestions on how to  manage feelings of Imposter Syndrome. 

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