Graduate Writing Consultations

One-on-one writing support for graduate students and postdocs

In partnership with UChicagoGRAD, we provide graduate student and postdoctoral writers from across the divisions with one-on-one support for ongoing writing projects. Writers meet with a Graduate Writing Consultant (GWC) for a fifty-minute session, focusing on an excerpt of in-progress work (up to 10 pages). These consultations are by appointment only. Appointments are held in Regenstein Library Room 01A.  During some quarters, we also offer a limited number of appointments via Skype. 

What do Graduate Writing Consultants do?

GWCs are trained by the Writing Program in principles of effective academic writing, and can help writers analyze and control the rhetorical effects of their writing for particular readers, equipping writers with tools for planning, drafting, and revising more effectively. But because writing at the graduate level is expert writing about a specialized field, in each consultation the GWC will rely upon the writer’s expertise about both their subject matter and their readers.

In these one-on-one sessions, writers work with GWCs not just on problems in particular drafts, but also to develop advanced skills for revision. Writers can meet with a GWC during any stage of the writing process–nearly completed documents, drafts, rough drafts, or really rough drafts. While we ask that all meetings start from some piece of writing, graduate students and postdocs can work with GWCs to begin getting ideas on the page during a project’s early stages. Writers can also bring in free-writing or related excerpts in order to work toward getting “unstuck” in the middle of a writing project.  

While most consultations revolve around writing that graduate students and postdocs have produced themselves, we also offer what is called a “Field Analysis” session. In these sessions, GWCs guide writers through a rhetorical analysis of published work in their field. Among other things, Field Analysis sessions help writers build practical familiarity with writing conventions specific to their fields. This kind of analysis can be highly useful for writers preparing work for publication or for conference presentations. Please note: these sessions do not offer reading comprehension support, and are not focused on the disciplinary content of the piece under analysis. Instead, the sessions help writers understand and employ effective rhetorical strategies as exercised by professional writers in a given academic discipline.

 

What kinds of writing do GWCs assist with?

  • Dissertation/Thesis Proposals
  • Thesis drafts
  • Dissertation chapters
  • Abstracts
  • Conference papers
  • Seminar papers or other papers for coursework
  • Journal articles

For help managing a job or fellowship application, we ask that you consult other University resources that can provide more tailored, genre-specific advice. UChicagoGRAD and the Chicago Center for Teaching both offer consultations, classes, and workshops that focus on these kinds of documents. You may email UChicagoGRAD’s Fellowship Proposal Specialist directly for an appointment. For English Language concerns, such as the proper use of idioms or how to use definite and indefinite articles, we suggest visiting the The English Language Institute.

What can I expect in a typical session?

After chatting with you to determine an agenda for the meeting, the GWC will ask questions about your text, your audience, and the conventions of your discipline to help you diagnose patterns and issues. The GWC is not there to judge content, but to help you judge the rhetorical effects of what you have written and how your audience may respond. With your audience in mind, the consultant will help you figure out ways to revise your text to achieve your desired effect.

Note: GWCs are not copy-editors/proofreaders. If you are looking for copy editing, the Writing Program can set you up with a trained, fee-based editor.

Would English Language Learners benefit from visiting the GWCs?

Yes! But please note: GWCs cannot do line-by-line editing, or proofread for grammar or English idiom usage. Rather, GWCs work to help writers anticipate and meet the needs of their readers. Much of this work involves the structure of entire arguments, and is equally applicable to the work of all writers. GWCs also give writers tools for structuring sentences in order to convey complex information clearly. Many intermediate to advanced English Language Learners have found these tools extremely helpful. But to use them, writers need enough command of the language to be able to choose which of several alternative sentence structures best meet the needs of their readers.

For other important ESL concerns, especially concerns related to the proper use of idioms, definite and indefinite articles, and the labyrinthine complexities of English verb tenses, we suggest visiting the The English Language Institute at the University’s Center for the Teaching of Languages on the second floor of Cobb Hall.

How do I book an appointment?

1. Request an appointment on the UChicagoGRAD appointment system
    • Request your appointment with your CNET ID.
    • Either submit your document when you make the appointment, or email it to us at gradwriting@uchicago.edu. We must receive your document at least 24 hours before your appointment time, or your appointment will be cancelled.
2. Fill out and submit your cover sheet
    • When you request an appointment, your GWC will email you to request that you fill out a cover sheet so you can provide more information about your text, your audience, and your concerns. The cover sheet form does more than ask for your name and departmental affiliation; it’s a series of guided questions to get you thinking critically about your writing. It’s also an opportunity for you to establish goals for the session. Filling out the cover sheet form is, in effect, the beginning of your session: a substantive thinking exercise that will amply repay the effort and attention you give to it.
    • Because the information you provide on the cover sheet is crucial, writers are required to fill it out before their appointment request is approved
3. Submit your document 
    • You have two choices: either upload your document to your appointment in the UChicagoGRAD appointment system, or email your document to gradwriting@uchicago.edu. In the subject line of your email, please write your name and appointment day and time, such as “Chris Marlow – Fri 7/2 10:00am.”
    • Documents can be up to 10 pages, double-spaced.  
    • Even if you have not yet begun formally drafting, we ask that you submit at least a page toward the draft. If you’re really stuck, please email us.
    • If we do not receive your document at least 24 hours in advance of your appointment time, your appointment will be cancelled. 

Structured Writing Accountability Groups

Looking to enhance your writing process? Join a writing group!

The Structured Writing Accountability Groups program (SWAG) is co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, the Office of Student Support Services, the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement and DiversityUChicagoGRAD, and the Writing Program.

SWAG works from the insight that it’s incredibly powerful to develop communities of supportive accountability for academic writing. Participants in SWAG commit to co-working together for three hours a week on Friday mornings. After the co-working session, participants share lunch and talk about their writing process, define goals, and collectively troubleshoot any roadblocks. A few times per quarter, UChicagoGRAD and the Writing Program offer plenary workshops on topics requested by participants: past workshop topics have included “Optimizing the Rest of the Week” and tips for using citation management software and writing software, like Evernote and Scrivener.

Applications to the SWAG program will be accepted starting in Autumn quarter. 

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