The Center for Excellence in Writing has proven to be a powerful resource for graduate students.
Feel free to come in with specific questions, for a brainstorming session, or to request feedback on a specific aspect of your work. While we may not have a consultant in your discipline, sometimes a thoughtful outside reader can provide you with a valuable perspective about the clarity of your work. There are times when just talking it out with a peer can help you unknot the inevitable tangles in your project.
We can help you with a wide variety of writing projects including:
Even though I had a rather difficult and exclusive topic, he took the time to understand necessary concepts in order to approach the essay.
The CEW helped me a lot in both my dissertation and drafts of my journal papers.
Check out our Write Through: Dissertation Inspiration resources below, or jump to our Graduate FAQ at the bottom of this page!
Write Through: Dissertation Inspiration is a collaboration between The Graduate School and The Center for Excellence in Writing. It includes dissertation retreats, workshops on productive writing strategies, and an article series. Our goal is to bring community, support, and shared wisdom to dissertation writers across UB.
Our Dissertation Retreats, co-sponsored by The Graduate School, help you to make bursts of significant progress toward completion of major projects.
Dissertation Retreats are five day, focused, writing events
Retreats are not instructional workshops. Rather, they provide an opportunity for intensive writing and accountability with peer support. Each writing day is framed by productive dialogue about writing processes.
Currently we are hosting virtual retreats over Zoom!!
Upcoming Virtual Dissertation Retreats: Set aside dedicated writing time with community support and accountability to jumpstart your progress into the holidays.
December 14 – 18. 9am – 1pm daily.
January 4 - 8. 10am - 4pm daily.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
I would participate in this every day until my dissertation was complete, if it was available.
I like the retreat for hearing the collective struggles and successes of the group. It makes me feel part of a community of writers.
Upcoming Workshop: "Taking Control of Your Dissertation Process" -- share and discuss productive writing strategies including time management, mindset, environment and social support for keeping up your writing momentum and hitting your deadlines.
Email email@example.com to register.
Scheduling Your Writing
It seems to be the simplest idea about dissertation writing: to successfully write your dissertation, you must sit down and write your dissertation! And yet, translating this into practice is perhaps the most difficult part. If you get a group of dissertation writers together, they will fill the air with self-reproach, detailing failures to establish a regular writing routine. They will talk about falling prey to long periods of inactivity followed by deadline-driven bursts of exhausting, long hours. More frequently than not, we have to revise and lengthen our intended timelines. While our scheduling attempts often fall into a heap of best intentions, anyone who has ever finished a dissertation has had some sort of writing schedule. It’s best to get thoughtful, intentional and experimental with scheduling your writing time!
Jan Allen, associate dean for academic affairs at Cornell University, and author of the book The Productive Graduate Student Writer: How to Manage Your Time, Process, and Energy to Write Your Research Proposal, Thesis and Dissertation, and Get Published, has a smart approach to scheduling that every writer should be encouraged to try. She advises committing to writing at least 90 minutes every day. Why 90 minutes? Because, she argues, that is about the time that a person can endure intensive writing, physically and mentally, until they need a break. She wants you to try writing for 90 minutes without getting up from your chair. Secondly, when just starting out with this scheduling strategy, she recommends writing every day for two weeks in order to establish daily writing as a habit. Some days you are tired, sick, or unreasonably busy. In such cases, Allen recommends that you sit down and write for at least 15 minutes anyway, lest a bad day turn into an unproductive week. She urges you to schedule writing sessions first thing in the morning, to avoid getting caught up in an avalanche of other responsibilities. If we write in the morning, we can assure ourselves that there will be time to do tasks such as grading or answering emails. Allen also suggests putting your 90-minute writing block on your calendar to formalize your commitment, and to create a measurable and realistic goal for each writing session. With such a plan, you will easily finish your dissertation in a reasonable time frame.
And yet, what we’ve learned from talking to so many dissertators through our retreats and our writer profile series is that effective scheduling strategies differ from person to person and within stages of the dissertation writing journey. Allen’s strategy might work like a charm for specific periods, but if you find yourself failing to rise to the 90-minute morning challenge, don’t beat yourself up. It’s okay to shift to a different writing schedule. In addition, nearly every successful dissertator does have times in which they are less productive than other times. The goal is to limit the duration of these less productive times, shake off the shame and avoidance, and continually jumpstart your writing productivity.
So here are some other ideas about writing scheduling to consider. David Strittmatter, for example, tried to conceptualize his dissertation writing as a traditional full-time job. He went to campus Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. he wrote his dissertation and attended to his responsibilities as a teaching assistant. As 3 p.m. rolled around, sure he might have been cognitively depleted, but did he go home? No, instead he saved that time for doing less cognitively demanding work such as working with his references or inserting footnotes.
But what if you already have a full-time job? Irene Holohan-Moyer worked in challenging roles in higher education administration while completing her dissertation. She proved that it is possible to write a dissertation on the weekends. She reserved three- to four-hour blocks on Saturday and Sunday, went to a coffee shop and plugged away. It might have taken her longer than it would have if she were not working full time, but the important thing is that she kept up steady progress with her realistic schedule.
Shanleigh Corrallo realized it was difficult for her to effectively mix different kinds of responsibilities, so she scheduled teaching and writing center consulting duties three days a week, and wrote her dissertation the other two days. Knowing that she also had to prioritize her own wellbeing, Corrallo tried not to work on the weekends.
Looking back through the Write Through profiles, there are as many different approaches to scheduling as there are writers, and all of these writers successfully finished their dissertations. What they have in common is that they had a scheduling strategy in mind and they held themselves accountable within their own individual strategy.
Not doing so well at keeping up a writing schedule? Tomorrow is a new day. Come up with a strategy that is realistic and works with your temperament and situation and try it out. Commit to it and hold yourself accountable! But don’t stop there—create a community of dialogue and accountability around your dissertation process.
Frequently asked questions about our Graduate level writing and consultations services. If you can't find an answer to your question here, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We employ MA and PhD level consultants from a variety of disciplines. Our graduate consultants are successful writers in their disciplines and also may have coursework in composition pedagogy and/or experience teaching writing.
Please note: We employ both undergraduate and graduate level consultants. If you are a graduate student, be sure to select a consultant at the appropriate level (designated as M.A. or PhD.)
We may, but we may not. Because of their experience with writing instruction and focus on language, many of our consultants are from English. We are always looking to diversify our consultant pool, but it is impossible to represent every discipline. You should not expect that your consultant be an expert in your content area. Our consultants are, however, very good at helping you gain perspective on the writing process, evaluating and discussing the rhetorical elements of texts, providing thoughtful and sensitive readings of your work, as well as helping with stylistic and grammatical elements of texts. Sometimes it is not an expert that you need, just a thoughtful reader with whom to “talk it out.”
While we can look at an electronic version with you on your laptop, many consultants prefer working with a hard copy that can be easily viewed and that you can mark up during the session. So, if you can, bring a hard copy along with any specific questions or areas of concern. You will direct the agenda of the session.
Our sessions are generally around 45 minutes long, so there is only so much that can be covered in that time. If your paper is very long, decide which portion or portions you want to focus upon. You can schedule follow-up appointments as needed.
The CEW is a great place for international students because working one-to-one with a native speaker who understands the process of language acquisition is perhaps the most efficient way to grow as a writer. We also have multilingual, international writing consultants who understand your experience and the language learning journey. Improving proficiency in written English is a long process, so many international students choose to schedule regular, ongoing appointments. As an added benefit, working one-to-one with a native speaking peer gives you excellent conversational practice as well!
The CEW is not an editing service. The GSA has an editing service that is paid through your student fees. If that service does not meet you needs, you may want to consider hiring an editor for the final stages of your wriitng process. The CEW provides collaborative, one-to-one attention to your writing, for example when editorial changes might affect meaning that requires discussion. Sometimes a combination of consultations and a traditional editing service might be a good solution. The CEW does try to maintain a list of graduate students or recent PhD graduates who offer editing services on a freelance basis.