Writing Resources

The websites and books listed below are only a small sample of the resources available to graduate writers. Those listed here are some of the ones I return to again and again. I will keep adding to this page, so feel free to recommend sites or books that have been particularly helpful to you.

Online Resources

The Graduate Student Life

TSpace, the University of Toronto’s repository of theses and dissertations. This is essential browsing. Most graduate students I speak to have never read or even glanced at a completed thesis; this seems like a missed opportunity to get a better sense of what successful theses are like, how chapters relate to each other, how “publication-based” theses use their General Intro and Conclusion to frame the various studies between them, and so on. The site is not user-friendly, but with a bit of searching you can find dozens of theses in your field, including those by your supervisor’s previous students.

Grad School Confidential,” a great podcast out of the University of Alberta, whose first three episodes tackle the important topics of Imposter Syndrome, Isolation and Burnout.

Explorations of Style” is Rachael Cayley’s fantastic academic-writing blog designed with graduate writers in mind. It includes engaging pages on crucial strategies like reverse outlining as well as on productivity.

Pearls of Wisdom Blog” on Karen Kelsey’s site The Professor Is in. I find blog posts on the job market particularly helpful, especially for writing cover letters and other such documents.

Writing Skills

Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).

Tips and Tools,” The Writing Center at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Hypergrammar,” University of Ottawa Writing Centre. My favourite site for clear, concise information on grammar and syntax. These are a bit hard to find: on this page, hover over the drop-down menu entitled “Hypergrammar” to see information on, for example, “Parts of Speech,” “Punctuation,” and so on.

Thomas Annesley. “Clinical Chemistry Guide to Scientific Writing,” a series of 14 articles on the different parts of a scientific article, a terrific and readable resource for scientists in any field.

Books

General

Joseph M. Williams. Style: Toward Clarity and Grace. Chicago UP, 1990 (there are multiple other editions of this excellent book, which is broadly applicable to writing clear sentences and coherent paragraphs)

Barbara Kamler and Pat Thomson. Helping Doctoral Students Writing: Pedagogies for Supervision. Though written for doctoral supervisors, this book can provide a lot of valuable information direct to graduate students. Its thorough treatments of locating oneself in one’s field(s) and of writing about the literature are particularly helpful. Probably most helpful for social scientists and some humanists.

Patrick Dunleavy. Authoring a PhD: How to Plan, Draft, Writing and Finish a Doctoral Thesis or Dissertation. Palgrave, 2003. Sometimes a bit to programmatic for my liking, but full of excellent information. Note that the focus of this book is British academia, so some details may be less applicable to North American students.

Christine Feak & John Swales. Creating Contexts: Writing Introductions across Genres. University of Michigan Press, 2011.

John Swales & Christine Feak. Abstracts and the Writing of Abstracts. University of Michigan Press, 2009.

John Swales & Christine Feak. Navigating Academia: Writing Supporting Genres. University of Michigan Press, 2011. Supporting genres are written documents that, being generally unavailable to public reading, are hard to write for lack of models. These include recommendation letters, statements of intent, grant applications, even emails to collaborators or editors. This book provides some very useful information on what these genres do and how to write them.

Science writing

Anne E. Greene. Writing Science in Plain English. Chicago UP, 2013 (a book explicitly adapting Joseph Williams’ Style: Toward Clarity and Grace [see above] for scientific writing).

Stephen B. Heard. The Scientist’s Guide to Writing: How to Write more easily and effectively throughout Your Scientific Career. Princeton UP, 2016 (a great book, which focuses more on genre and structure than Greene, who focuses more on mechanics and style).

Joshua Schimel. Writing Science: How to Write Papers that Get Cited and Proposals that Get Funded. Oxford University Press, 2012.

Humanities and Social Sciences

Joseph Harris. Rewriting: How to Do Things with Texts. University Press of Colorado, 2006. One of my favourite writing books, it offers an illuminating and practical way of thinking about the work academics do, and how they engage with other research.

Howard Becker. Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book or Article, 3rd ed. University of Chicago Press, 2020.

Christine Feak & John Swales. Telling a Research Story: Writing a Literature Review. University of Michigan Press, 2009.

Eric Hayot. Elements of Academic Style: Writing in the Humanities. Despite its title, this book is fairly specific in focus–its recommendations are perhaps less useful to historians and philosophers than to literary and film scholars, for example. Still, its discussion of writing practices is excellent, and its promotion of “The Uneven U” heuristic for structuring paragraphs, sections and documents is, when taken with a grain of salt, essential.