Graduate writing and research differs from undergraduate writing in a few important ways. Gone are the days you can simply write about a topic and not connect it to the larger context.

Instead, graduate research writing typically asks you to:

  • Present an issue and show that you know the key concerns, the important arguments, and the scholars who have contributed to the debate. Graduate writing asks you to show that your understanding of the issue is more than superficial and that you can discuss a topic in an original way.
  • Clarify your unique perspective on the issue. Unlike the undergraduate experience, where you can hide behind the brilliant ideas of scholars, in graduate school, you will be working toward joining the scholarly conversation, even contributing to it.
  • Use credible and reliable research to support your original ideas.
  • Synthesize the available literature on the topic.
  • Avoid (or limit) the use of direct quotations.
  • Write clearly and concisely.

Essentially, graduate school is the space for developing expertise in one’s field, so most writing assignments will be crafted towards that goal. While you may be asked to write response papers and more informal assignments, many of your assignments will be lengthier and ask that you contextualize and engage in more extensive research.

Use this informative graphic to better understand these different expectations:  Undergraduate vs. Graduate Writing

Undergrad vs Graduate Writing Expectations Infographic. Opens in new window.


When you’re ready, be sure your writing meets the expectations of the graduate level by reviewing the Scholarly Writing Guidelines.

Samples and Resources

The resources in this section are designed to support advanced undergraduates and graduate-level writers.

Guides & Samples


View a Sample