As graduate school enrollments increase across the United States, professors from most disciplines lament these students lack writing skills.
Author: Jeff Gard
Category: Education, Higher
As graduate school enrollments increase across the United States, professors from most disciplines lament these students lack writing skills. Previous studies on graduate student writing have stated that students are underprepared to write in their programs and have offered several suggestions for remediating these skills: writing seminars, introductory writing classes, increased faculty feedback, and writing checklists. Most of these studies are based on the perspectives of professors, who act as gatekeepers to determine who is considered an expert in a field. Few studies have addressed how writing centers can help graduate students as emerging experts. Using surveys, document analysis, and case studies, the current study gathered data on graduate students' perspectives of their writing preparedness and confidence. In addition, the study looked at how these students perceived the writing support they receive in their programs, what types of documents they needed help writing, and why they used the services of a writing center. Finally, case studies on three doctoral students revealed how a tutor helped graduate students who used the writing center. Contrary to previous studies, the current study found that graduate students do not view themselves as underprepared to write at the graduate level. On surveys, they expressed a high level of confidence in their writing skills. Regardless of this confidence, these students still wanted to work with a tutor in the writing center. While some graduate students used the writing center to fulfill a course requirement or a professor's expectation, most found the writing center helped offset the isolation they felt and provided a ready and eager audience for their ideas. In addition, there is some evidence that the writing center helped graduate students rehearse their roles as experts (Leverenz, 2001) and participate in their disciplinary discourse at the passing, procedural, and deep levels (Prior, 1998).