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Writing Tutorial



My Cohort,  by readilyred



* Part 1: Introduction

 Why Is What I Want to Write/Say Important?

Research suggests that one of the most powerful ways to deepen learning and to crystallize thought is through the process of writing (Schmoker, 2006).The ability to write clearly, concisely, and persuasively grows out of a learnable set of skills. Furthermore, the capacity for putting ideas together into a printed format is critical to academic and professional success. It is most encouraging to know that writing skills can be dramatically improved through focused practice and coaching. Research suggests that very few of us have been taught the requisite skills for writing well.

Getting Into a Positive Writing State

In our experience, one of the most powerful ways to improve the process of writing well is to take the steps necessary to get into a positive writing state. First, we usually pick a time of day when there are the least amount of distractions. Everyone has such busy lives! This allows for maximum focused attention on the writing task at hand. It is good to get high levels of dopamine into the brain by doing some light exercise. For example, some BrainSMART teachers take a short walk or do some Brainobics ( see and click Healthwise and then click BrainObics) to prepare to write. This also helps to clear the mind. Another good idea is to perk your brain up with a healthy high protein snack as this will help to increase dopamine levels as well. Thus it may allow you to have sharper and more sustained focus. For example, we often eat our favorite nuts as a snack as they are rich in protein and good fats; grilled chicken with a few raw vegetables; yogurt; or low fat cheese on whole wheat (if possible) crackers.  Overall, foods that are high in fat can tend to make you drowsy. Also when writing we do not consume refined carbohydrates such as donuts, baked goods, or foods such as potatoes or pasta as they will release serotonin into your brain and make you sleepy.

Writing With the Whole Brain

One benefit of learning how to improve our writing skills is that, in our experience, it is like a workout for your whole brain. For example, metaphorically we may consider that first we use the frontal lobe to aim our brain toward the clear intent of our writing assignment. Having once defined this, secondly we can then use our occipital lobe to visualize what it is we want our reader to see in their mind’s eye when they read the text we have created. Thirdly, we can then begin our actual writing by creating a plan with our left hemisphere summarizing the key points we wish to communicate. The fourth step is to use our right hemisphere to create the written work in a way that makes it come to life. At this stage we need to keep our right brain free to create by focusing on meaning and the big picture, rather than the details of spelling and grammar. Lastly, we then can use our left hemisphere to edit, polish, fine tune, and employ finishing power to complete our work. Using the right and left hemispheres in this way can be compared with the right brain quarrying the stone, while the left hemisphere carves the statue.

Schmoker, M.J. (2006). Results now: how we can achieve unprecedented improvements in teaching and learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD.)


* Part 2: Thinking Through Your Graduate Paper (Each part is a link so that reader can scroll down or click on a specific link.  The document is all one page with easy access.  There are back to top links after each section)

 * Part 3: Writing precisely the best, most correct, communicative   sentence! 

* Part 4: Paragraphs that go with the flow 

* Part 5: Constructing your paper
                   Using a Key Cognitive Asset:  Summarizing

 * Part 6: Editing 1  and Editing 2 

* Part 7: Rubrics and Sample Paper 

* Part 7: References 



By cocoluna


Before you start writing your paper, before you start thinking about your paper, and before you start the class, remember:
When all else fails, read and follow notes, advice, and directions from your instructor
And directions in the manual and student handbook!


Part 2: Thinking Through Your Graduate Paper

  Writing in Graduate School Does Not Have To Be

  The Dark Side Of The Moon!    

  Shaping and Planning Your Paper:  Saying/Writing what you mean to say and   write.

  • Some people need to write, doodle, or outline their thoughts.  Others meditate, eat ice cream, listen to music, jog a mile or two, or just take the assigned topic and produce a paper.  Whatever your preferred method of thinking through your paper, it is important that this be your starting point. On many levels, think about your thesis statement and purpose of your writing using your emotions, and not dwelling exclusively on this particular paper.

  How to write a thesis statement.

Sequence your thoughts for the essay, sentence, paragraph, and final   product. The thesis statement is your first thinking task!

  • After you have narrowed your thoughts to form a central thesis statement or purpose of your paper, then sequence the points you want to make in your paper and organize your thoughts so that you are telling a story.  Convince your reader about what you want them to know.

What do you want your reader to learn when they read your paper?

  • Using an outline, mind-mapping, sequence of notes, or other favorite method, think through how you will "lead" your reader to grasp the points that compose the purpose of paper.

  For example:

Thinking through a paper on leading an authentically happy life:

  1. What is an authentically happy life and how do I live that life?
  2.     A.  A Pleasant Life
          B.  A Meaningful Life
          C.  A Good Life
  3.  How to integrate authentic happiness into my life
  4.  Examining your life for authentic happiness.
  5.  Summary and Concluding thoughts

NOW, read the sections that follow in this tutorial and ask yourself these   REALLY important questions:

  • Who are you writing your paper for?  Who? is your READER!
  • Have I cut out unnecessary words?
  • Have I edited and revised my paper thoroughly?
  • Have I checked for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors?
  • Does my paper make sense?
  • KEY:  Have I asked someone else to read my paper?

Here are two Web sites that are great resources when thinking about what you want to say in your paper:

***There is a complete sample paper in the Rubrics section.***



Part 3:    Writing precisely the best, most correct, communicative sentence!

  • "The deadly sentence that goes on forever with multiple thoughts and endless splices, then never gets to the ending so that you don’t know what the writer is trying to say is just not helpful and can be uninteresting, don’t you know."

Yes, it’s true.  You do not write academic papers the way you speak conversational language.  Academic language may seem strained, and even artificial to you until you get used to the academic writing expectations of your professors. 

For example:  "How Full is Your Bucket?" is such a positive book that I   couldn’t put it down once I started reading it so I finished it and found   out I empty people’s buckets sometimes and fill them other times.

  • ·Short, very focused sentences that are tied together around the central thought or thesis of your paragraphs are easier to understand and aid the reader in inferring the meaning and perspective in your paper.

When I read, "How Full is Your Bucket?" I discovered my ability to fill   and empty people’s buckets at different times in my life.  




Avoid splicing or "sticking on" words or phrases onto a sentence.  Find the   subject and verb in your sentence and judge the modifying phrases and   words.  Ask yourself:  Did I splice?


Super sentences and sentence composition are explained in these Web sites:

Avoid Sentence Fragments:



Part 4:   Paragraphs that go with the flow

  • A paragraph expresses one thought and then elaborates upon that thought through supporting evidence, contrasting with sentences that disagree with the statement, or tying the thought to paragraphs that proceed and follow the paragraph you are now writing.  Paragraphs are bricks which are put together to introduce, support, explain, and conclude your paper.  If your paragraphs are not well constructed and thought through, your paper will not convey what you want to say.



Sample paragraphs might be written for the assigned essay below.

Assignment: Write an essay that addresses the following questions, one   paragraph per question. Begin with an introduction that brings the reader   into your paper and highlights what your paper will address. Close with a   summary of your responses to the questions.


  1.  Introduction

  2. Looking back on your classes with BrainSMART, what essentially   matched up with what you already knew as an educator? Give a couple of   examples.

  3. Again, looking back, what did you learn that completed a circle of   understanding for you - you were close to understanding, but now believe   you truly do? Give examples to support your thinking.

  4. Now that you have nearly completed the BrainSMART program, what   has you looking at learning from a different angle? Give two examples.

  5. Looking forward, what do you already know you will do to incorporate     BrainSMART into your teaching? Choose at least two actions you plan to   take.

  6. Also looking forward, how do you intend to keep abreast of   BrainSMART and related brain-based learning information?

  7. In closing, summarize your essay, including some closing thoughts that   are important for you to share.

  • A True Thought:  Material can never be "covered."  The raw material or content for your paper can only be effective in helping you say what you want to say after the material has been processed in your own, special, unique BRAIN!  Think about your thinking!

 Check out the examples of paragraphs in the following Web sites:




Part 5: Constructing your paper

  • Layout of the paper: Introduction, three to four points, closing. 

One of the easiest methods to use in thinking through your paper or essay is to introduce the theme, thesis, or purpose, then explain, support, contrast, and/or elaborate on your theme, and lastly, draw conclusions and reiterate what you have said in a summary.

  • Transition points. When putting your paragraphs into sections and then sections into a complete paper, it is vital that your link paragraphs and sections of your paper with transition sentences and even transition paragraphs.
  • The information in your paper needs to flow smoothly, be coherent and useful to the reader, and to MAKE your points.  Transition words and sentences make this possible. 

For Example: 

The degree to which we believe events are temporary or permanent significantly affects our expectation about the future. A model to dispel and dismantle negative self-talk is offered. (new paragraph)

A seven day ’ABCDE’ template....

This would be the ending of one paragraph and the beginning of the next.  The author (paraphrase of a review of M. Seligman’s book, Authentic Happiness) is describing the need to challenge negative self-dialogue and then moving on to introduce the ABCDE model of self-talk.



Writing Your Paper:


Sample Papers:

Paper using APA style




Part 6: Editing 1

The letter, I, comes before the letter, E, except...And so on and so on.
Grammar, Punctuation, and Spelling

A superior method of exhibiting your academic savvy and commitment to   excellence, is to demonstrate your prowess in writing distinctive graduate   papers for your professors.

Grammar gaffs, inaccurate punctuation usage, and spelling snafus indicate   inattention to detail, poor writing skills, lack of knowledge about correct   punctuation and checking spelling, and lax professionalism.   

As you are writing and editing your graduate school papers, be aware of:

  • Subject-Verb agreement: 

A plural subject (noun- oranges) must have a plural verb (verb- are sweet).  Never: Oranges is sweet! 

The trick is to identify the noun and verb in your sentence and mentally put aside for the moment, all the words that separate the two.

Example:  Being passive responders to the world around you is like going to the beach and staying indoors all the time. 

The noun is the phrase starting with "being passive responders" and "is going and staying" is the compound verb! 

This Web site might help: Big Dog’s Grammar 




It’s My Turn in the Tub! 
Hectic Bathtime, by Aussie Julie

  • Possessive Words, Plural Words, and Contractions with an Apostrophe (’)

A singular noun or subject of the sentence becomes plural when you
ADD an s to the noun; student becomes students. When you want to show that something belongs to a student,
ADD an apostrophe and an s; student (singular) becomes student’s book-bag (plural).

Now the formations become a bit more complex.  You need to read the sentence for meaning and decide: 1.  How many?  2.  Who is owning what?  3.  Is there a unique construction for this word?


For example:

One student owning a dog becomes: the student’s dog; One student and one dog. Several students owning books becomes, the students’ books.  Many students, the   apostrophe comes after the s to denote plural students, and many books.

Another word construction that can be problematic is the contraction of the verb to be and a noun or the word, not.  Examples are they’re, wouldn’t, aren’t, could’ve, which are they are, would not, are not, and could have.

A way to proofreading contractions is to read the sentence and wording as if the contraction did not exist.

An example might be:  The brain needs it’s daily supply of water.  Dehydration can be its constant problem in effective functioning.

Reading the first sentence:  The brain needs it is daily supply of water.  Here the words, it and is, should be possessive, its, and not a contraction.  In the second sentence, the word, its, is correctly used to show possession.

For more examples of correct usage, check out the following Web sites:

  • Passive Voice, the Verb, To Be:

Using the passive voice is not bad grammar; over use of the passive is to be discouraged.  When writing in the passive voice, the subject of the sentence receives the action of the verb rather than performing the action as in active voice sentences.

Some Web sites on the use of the passive voice:

  • Joining words:  and, but, yet, for, and more.

The joining or connecting word is preceded by a comma when two complete sentences (each with its own subject noun and verb) are joined.  Be careful not to overuse joined sentences and never, ever splice phrases onto a complete sentence.

  • Punctuation:

Excellent texts on correct punctuation and how to find your punctuation errors can be found on Web sites.  Google correct punctuation! 

A few key punctuation problems include the comma in a list of items:

Good nutrition is vital for learning, for brain health, and for class participation.  Be sure you have a comma before the and or connecting word in a list or series.

Also important is the use of the colon and semi-colon.  Don’t be temped to splice a phrase onto a sentence using either a colon or semi-colon.

Check that all sentences have an ending form of punctuation depending on the type of sentence:  declarative, question, exclamation, and others.

Some Web sites on punctuation:



A Rose by Any Other Name....
Spelling Error, by Kaptain

  • Spelling:

Online dictionaries and thesauruses and the spell-check and thesaurus in your word-processor (WORD, WORKS, WORD PERFECT, etc), are very helpful.  These tools even increase your vocabulary!

KEY POINT TO REMEMBER:  Always review, proofread, and correct your paper for all errors.  Don’t depend on the automatic spell-check as some words with different meanings are spelled the same:  to, too, and two, stalk and stalk (plant stem), and many more.

Online Dictionary:

More on Grammar and Grammar Gaffs can be found at:

and several of the Web sites listed above.




Part 6:  Editing 2:  The Proof is in the Pudding


Final Paper Before Departure, By Vahid&Khatera

Several excellent writing skills resources can be found on Web sites referenced   throughout this tutorial.  The easy-to-use reference guides can help you craft your   excellent graduate school paper. 

  • First, you must recognize that there is a writing technique, skill, or rule that you need to know.  Watch for errors you have made in previous papers.  Research the correct usage or rule and practice correcting your errors.  Take care to avoid assuming your usage is correct when your papers are returned to you again and again with the professor’s editing remarks.
  • Taking the reader’s perspective:
    By writing your paper well ahead of the due date, you will have time to put your draft away and re-read your paper for content and errors.  Try to read your paper as if you were the professor or a colleague.  Getting outside your "self," permits you to take another perspective on what you have written.
  • Reading for flow:
    Keep the outline/template for your paper in your thoughts:  introduction, three or four points, and conclusion.  Have you organized your paper so that the reader can follow your purpose?  Are your transition points the "glue" that makes the paper coherent and challenges the reader to new thinking about your topic or thesis?

  For more examples of proofreading, visit the following Web sites:

Proofreading Checklists:




Part 7:  Rubrics

Rubrics are descriptors of satisfactory and unsatisfactory work.  The phrases that describe graduate writing are arranged by topic and by level of excellence.  Rubrics are like measuring tapes or yardsticks that give ways to gauge the quality of your work. 





Thinking through the paper

Thesis not developed; material/content disjointed

Thesis is followed but not well developed.  Lacks depth in content.

Thesis well developed and analyzed.  Content clearly supports.


Comma and phrase splices.  Rudimentary sentence composition.

Sentences clear and focused.  No splices but lack of coherence.

Structure is correct and thought process supported by sentence structure.


Thesis not developed in paragraphs.  Collection of sentences with little coherence.

Thesis clear in each paragraph but lack of development paragraph to paragraph.

Paragraphs explain and contrast thesis while inner construction is consistent with correct usage.

Layout and Construction

Thesis not clearly stated.  Paper erratic construction lacking depth.  Confused development of theme

Paper components clear and construction adequate.  Failure to fully expand on thesis through construction.

Layout of paper supports thesis and purpose.  Clearly defined components and flow excellent.

Grammar, Spelling, Punctuation

Misspelled words, incorrect grammar and punctuation usage.

Very few errors in spelling and usage.  Correct but not creative.

Excellent use of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Editing and Proofreading

Paper not edited or proofread for errors and construction problems.

Paper edited and proofed with few errors.  Little attention to flow and coherent meaning in final draft.

Extensive editing and proofreading evident.  No errors and attention paid to all components of the paper.








The Myth of Midlife Crisis
NOVA-BrainSMART Course

(Using the Introduction, three topic paragraphs, and summary/conclusion plan found at:, the following essay illustrates format, three cognitive assets, and structure/organization of an effective essay)

  Studies have not substantiated the myth that adults around the 40th birthday experience a crisis of self-confidence and recriminations about earlier decisions and events in their lives.  On the contrary, many researchers ( Heckhausen, 2001; Stewart & Ostrove, 1998) have determined that mid-life is a time of midcourse corrections and optimistic expectations.  So why has the myth of a midlife crisis persisted? (The first two sentences in the opening paragraph state factual information that contrasts a popular belief in mid-life crisis for men and women.  The final sentence is the thesis statement and determines the purpose of writing the paper which means to answer the question of why the myth persists.)

  The first evidence for the enduring myth of midlife crisis is the obvious self-reflection on physical changes.  The signs of aging, gray hair, wrinkles, arthritis, and patterns of sleep and wakefulness, all point to the conclusion that after-40 birthdays indicate how much time is left to live rather than years since birth.  These potentially troubling personal changes are clear every day when the person looks in the mirror first thing in the morning. (This is the first topic paragraph that supports the persistence of the myth of midlife as a crisis.  The thesis statement is physical changes experienced around the 40th birthday.  Using systematic planning to organize the support for challenging the myth of the midlife crisis, scientific evidence and observations are used to support the conclusion that the myth is just that, a myth.)

  To adults reaching the age of 40 or more, time may seem to be running out when viewed in terms of life goals not yet accomplished.  Middle age may be the last chance for marriage.  Teenage children exhibit the independent, often defiant behavior that precedes moving away from home and establishing their own lives.  Parents become grandparents and are not needed in the same sense as when they were young and had babies, jobs, and lives to manage. (This second topic paragraph uses effective expression of the emotional understanding of midlife change.  All readers, regardless of age, can imagine not being needed as an older person.  The paragraph illustrates why the reader might think of midlife as a crisis in identity.)

  Finally, midlife adults have been observed to adjust to the inevitable changes as expected milestones of life.  Middle age people may transform themselves and their lives in accord with Erickson’s theory of generativity (1963).  New careers, greater expression of creativity in the arts and volunteerism, and shifts in familial relationships characterize the optimistic, developmental outlook that many people in this age group adopt (McAdams, 2001). (The final topic paragraph supports the notion that most people at age 40 begin to view the rest of their lives as opportunity rather than doomed fate.  The transformative nature of reflecting on the first half of life becomes the energy which is used to live an even fuller existence and usually in caring for others.)

  The evidence for challenging the myth of midlife crisis appears to be clear.  Personality components remain stable even into midlife (McCrae & Allik, 2002). Yet, this does not explain why the myth has endured.  Heckhausen (2001) points out that having the expectation of life-as-we-know-it ends at 40 may enable midlife adults to be pleasantly surprised at how well they cope with physical change, transform personal power from parent to grandparent and close confidant, and continue to be productive.  Generativity and creativity permit the same sense of accomplishment and community as experienced in earlier years.  Consequently, the function of the myth of midlife crisis may be more benchmark with a purpose than a bell tolling the end is near! (The concluding thoughts in the last paragraph of the essay illustrate summarization of the three points made in the topic paragraphs.  It is important to identify the thesis statement for the entire essay and for each paragraph.  Can you identify each thesis statement?)


Erikson, H. (1963). Childhood and society (2nd ed.). New York: Norton.

Heckhausen, J. (2001). Adaptation and resilience in midlife. In M. E. Lachman (Ed.),
            Handbook of midlife development (pp. 345-394). New York: Wiley.

McAdams, D. P. (2001). Generativity in midlife. In M. E. Lachman (Ed.), Handbook of  midlife development (pp. 395-443). New York: Wiley.

McCrae, M. E., & Allik, J. (Eds.). (2002). The five-factor model of personality across   cultures. New York: Kluwer.

Stewart, A. J., & Ostrove, J. M. (1998). Women’s personality in middle age: Gender,  history, and midcourse corrections. American Psychologist, 53, 1185-1194.






Part 7: References for Writing Graduate School Papers with Pizazz!

William Strunk, Elements of Style, the BOOK for writing

Links to writing a basic essay

The 25 best sites on writing essays


After the Final, By neb_psych