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Sweetland-Rackham Workshops

The Sweetland-Rackham Workshops on Writing series, co-sponsored by the Rackham Graduate School and held in the Fall and Winter terms, cover a host of topics designed to help graduate students in various aspects of writing. Previous topics include: Writing Persuasive Personal Statements, Academic Writing in the Social Sciences and Humanities, Effective Writing Plans and Goals, and Writing Your Way Through the Dissertation, and Academic Writing in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Disciplines.

Previous Workshops

Workshops are co-sponsored by the Rackham Graduate School.

Grants and Fellowship Workshop for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

This workshop will provide an overview of writing grant and fellowship applications in the sciences. We will start with an overview of resources to identify funding opportunities, and move through meeting application requirements, how to develop and write components of a proposal, and how to avoid common errors in proposal writing, finishing with the reviewer’s perspective when evaluating proposals.


Academic Writing in the Social Sciences & Humanities

This workshop is designed to help graduate students identify and meet the challenges of academic writing in the Social Sciences and Humanities. This workshop will offer practical suggestions on how to:

  • Contextualize, frame, and test an effective argument
  • Strengthen the structure of an argument
  • Identify writing conventions in your discipline
  • Situate your work within the existing scholarship of your field
  • Write with clarity and precision at the level of sentence, paragraph, and section
  • Solicit and respond to feedback from advisers and peers

This workshop will be useful for Social Science and Humanities graduate students writing seminar papers, dissertations, conference papers and articles.


Writing for Blogs and Digital Media

Writing for blogs and digital media is an essential skill for today's writers. Whether you are writing for a blog or some other form of digitally created and shared piece of writing, there are many issues you should be aware of--from creating compelling and convincing posts that resonate with your target audience, to navigating the shifting waters of authorship and publication. Most important, you should become familiar with how text and images work together, how links can be effective, and how content achieves a purpose. Come to this workshop to begin exploring and understanding these contemporary aspects of writing.


Writing Persuasive Personal Statements

This session considers personal statements as a form of argument and focuses on their underlying rhetoric. The workshop will:

  • Review examples of calls for proposals and decode their language to see more clearly how best to respond
  • Construct general principles about audiences for statements of purpose and how to write to meet their needs
  • Offer tips on easy ways of preparing to write and enrich the statement
  • Share exercises on how to conceive of the statement as an argument
  • Consider what UM statistics say about why proposals are rejected
  • Review a list of things (and words) to avoid in statements of purpose

This workshop will be useful for any graduate student applying for fellowships, grants, or other opportunities whose applications require some form of statement of purpose. It will not address how to identify grant or fellowship opportunities.


Academic Writing in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Disciplines

This workshop will provide an overview of writing at a professional level in the sciences. The information discussed will apply equally to journal papers, dissertations, and other graduate level writing. We will cover drafting and revising techniques, discuss how to best target your audience, go over the structure of scientific writing, and focus — at a sentence and paragraph level — on what your reader needs from your writing.


Effective Writing Plans and Goals

Balancing the demands of writing with the array of other graduate school responsibilities—planning discussion sections, building syllabi, grading, acting as a research assistant, reading for classes, being a diligent citizen of your home department, etc.—can seem overwhelming. The good news is, it can be done, and it can be done reasonably. This workshop focuses on how to develop productive academic writing habits. The purpose is to instruct participants how to plan a project, set goals, and meet them, and students should leave the workshop with their own writing plans in place. We will discuss specific approaches to:

  • Understanding your individual writing needs
  • Determining appropriate form and scope of projects based on purpose, audience, and time constraints
  • Breaking projects into manageable stages
  • Setting reasonable, achievable goals
  • Time management (especially working effectively with limited time)
  • Moving back and forth between research and writing
  • Moving back and forth between projects
  • Building in accountability
  • Making the most of peer groups
  • Incorporating feedback for revision


Writing Your Way Through the Dissertation

While the dissertation is the final achievement of your graduate education, writing the dissertation is a process few face without struggle. Little prepares graduate students for the enormity of writing these extended and original academic arguments. This workshop will consider how writers can better manage writing their dissertations, and in fact, use writing as a way through the whole process. The workshop will offer strategies that address writing practice, work routines, and divisions of labor. This workshop will also present approaches to writing issues that dissertators in particular encounter, including: clarifying dissertation expectations, audience and working with committees, and the expanded role of revision for dissertators. The workshop is intended for writers from all disciplines who are in the midst of writing their dissertations and in search of strategies and approaches that can help advance their writing practice.

Topics include:

  • clarifying expectations of a successful dissertation
  • audience and working with committees
  • reflective mapping strategies
  • best writing practices for dissertators


Beyond Plagiarism: The Role of Citation Norms in Establishing Scholarly Credibility

While proper citation of sources is required of any writer who wants to avoid plagiarism, academic norms regarding citation and source use are complex and extend beyond law and ethics. This workshop offers a quick overview of key ethical concerns, followed by a more in-depth exploration of the role of citation practices in establishing scholarly credibility. Distinctions between plagiarism and copyright violations will be noted, but the workshop focuses more on how to situate one’s own research in a broader rhetorical landscape (how to position one’s work in an academic field) than on how to avoid breaking laws. This workshop will be most useful for graduate students in any discipline who are beginning to think about disseminating original research, whether at conferences or for publication. It will not address technicalities of copyright law in science or engineering fields. Topics addressed:

  • Law vs. ethics vs. credibility
  • Varieties of plagiarism
  • Effective use of paraphrasing
  • How to signal your own research contributions through strategic use and citation of sources