Academic Writing for Multiple Audiences

Instructor: Bertram (Chip) Bruce

Description: More than half of doctoral students leave graduate programs without completing their dissertations, with the attrition being higher in the humanities and the social sciences. Moving beyond the social support of coursework and the discipline of specific degree requirements, doctoral students often feel adrift. They may lack effective strategies, productive collaborations, and emotional support. Individual advisers are expected to juggle competing demands and may have difficulty providing all of the needed guidance or support.

This graduate-level course addresses that situation. It helps students develop as writers within academic communities. Topics include critical reading skills, structural features of specific academic writing genres/disciplines, and effective incorporation of the work of others through summarizing, paraphrasing, quoting, and citing. The course also addresses issues of motivation and general strategies for success.

Recommended for: The course is recommended for students at any stage of the dissertation process, but also for those working on a master’s thesis, conference and journal publication, or other major academic writing.

Activities: Course activities include reflection upon and improvement of writing processes through generating ideas, drafting, peer evaluation, and writing consultations. Students will help others through encouragement, suggestions, and critique. This directly expands the set of resources for improving one’s own writing. In addition, it provides a means for developing the meta-knowledge associated with writing for different audiences and purposes.

In contrast with a typical graduate seminar, the focus is on student’s own writing, not published journal articles and books. The readings are intended primarily to assist in that writing. We assume that students will have already been reading in their particular focal research area.


  • Students in the class learn by helping others to learn, and together, we create the curriculum out of dialogue. As a result, participation is more crucial than it might be in classes based on lectures or set readings.
  • There may be unavoidable absences, some based on doing the very things the class is teaching. In those cases, it’s your responsibility to discuss it in advance and to propose an alternative way to contribute and learn.
  • Collaboration. It’s fine to do your projects in collaboration with another class member or a community member.