Prepping for grad school (after 7 years of being out of school)

It’s been 7 years since I graduated from my last program, the Library and Technician diploma program. I did take one history course through the university I work at in 2015, but it feels like it’s been forever since I had to flex my research skills and write a lot of papers. That’s actually been a major point of anxiety for me since I got accepted to Alberta earlier this year. I’ve been concerned about getting back into the swing of balancing readings, and participation, and research and writing. Plus I’ve never done it all while working full-time before. I know I can handle the time management aspect because that’s an area I’ve been working hard on for years. I’m just nervous that my academic muscles haven’t had the chance to be flexed for quite some time.

But, I have come up with a plan I’m hoping to use to combat those nerves and help me whip my academic writing skills back into shape. I grabbed five books on academic writing from work and I’m planning to read them all to help me boost my confidence. I thought I’d share with all of you which books I grabbed, why I chose them, and what I am hoping to get from them as I prep for my MLIS journey…which starts in 3 weeks, so I better get reading!

51IUObESuTL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Up first is the Handbook of Academic Writing for Librarians by Christopher V. Hollister. From the title alone, this book sounds like it will be exactly what I want and need in order to up my game for the MLIS program. My friend and colleague Matt reported that he’s read it and he agrees with that assessment. The summary of the book only bolstered that opinion:

The Handbook of Academic Writing for Librarians is the most complete reference source available for librarians who need or desire to publish in the professional literature. The Handbook addresses issues and requirements of scholarly writing and publishing in a start-to-finish manner. Standard formats of scholarly writing are addressed: research papers, articles, and books. Sections and chapters include topics such as developing scholarly writing projects in library science, the improvement of academic writing, understanding and managing the peer review process including submission, revision, and how to handle rejection and acceptance, assessing the appropriateness of publishing outlets, and copyright.

This primary reference tool for the library and information science (LIS) community supports those who either desire or are required to publish in the professional literature. LIS students at the masters and doctoral levels can also benefit from this comprehensive volume.

I’ve got high hopes that this book out of all the ones I chose will really be able to give me some specific insights, tips, and tricks that will be beneficial in my courses.

I should note now, that I am writing these up in the order I plan to read them. The 41113409method to my madness for this order is that I thought I should start specific and then work my way back to a broader scope. I feel like by doing that it will help me keep the specifics in mind as I begin to think about context and bigger pictures. On that note, my next choice is a book that’s actually written by a colleague at Wilfrid Laurier University where I currently work, Mastering Academic Writing by Boba Samuels & Jordana Garbati.

Focusing on research-related assignments, this book helps you navigate the potential pitfalls of academic writing through the experience of students who face the same challenges you do. Packed with hands-on exercises and insightful feedback, this workbook gives you the practice you need to fine tune your academic writing.

Using their years of experience coaching students, the authors help you to: Develop and hone arguments Organise and interpret source material Write effective research proposals Follow academic conventions with confidence Complete collaborative writing projects. Perfect for anyone transitioning from undergraduate to postgraduate degrees, Mastering Academic Writing provides the skills, tips, and tricks you need to move beyond the basics of academic writing and meet the new expectations of further study.

The Student Success series are essential guides for students of all levels. From how to think critically and write great essays to planning your dream career, the Student Success series helps you study smarter and get the best from your time at university. Visit the SAGE Study Skills hub for tips and resources for study success!

On first glance, I really like the way this book is laid out it looks very approachable. The part I am most excited about is the before and after examples using real student assignments. My only concern with this one is that it may be more undergrad specific, but I could be wrong. I’ll find out when I start reading it.

31706999._SX318_This next one was on my radar because it gets used A LOT by the English professors at Laurier. It’s been on course reserves every semester since the second edition was published. Because of that, I felt like it was definitely one that I should add to my roster.  They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, with 2016 MLA Update
by Gerald Graff & Cathy Birkenstein. Based on the introduction (which I skimmed while I was waiting for my ride the day I borrowed it), this one looks like it will be really interactive and good for using to edit. Which can only be a good thing because I’ve always had trouble editing my own work up to now.

“They Say / I Say” identifies the key rhetorical moves in academic writing, showing students how to frame their arguments in the larger context of what others have said and providing templates to help them make those moves. And, because these moves are central across all disciplines, the book includes chapters on writing in the sciences, writing in the social sciences, and–new to this edition–writing about literature.

A short blurb, for a relatively short book. But I’m hoping to get a lot of mileage out of this slim text. If it can help me with my editing as much as I hope it will be able to, then I may just have to actually buy a copy.

The fourth book is another one that my friend Matt indicated he’d read and had some 13594255use out of, so I am already glad that I’ve added it to the list because he has yet to steer me wrong with advice. Academic Writing for Graduate Students: Essential Tasks and Skills
by John M. Swales & Christine B. Feak, aside from the Hollister book, this is the only other book of the five that explicitly touts itself as being for the graduate level. For that reason alone I have high hopes for it. It’s also the longest of the books which makes me suspect that it will be the most detailed.

Like its predecessor, the third edition of Academic Writing for Graduate Students explains understanding the intended audience, the purpose of the paper, and academic genres; includes the use of task-based methodology, analytic group discussion, and genre consciousness-raising; shows how to write summaries and critiques; features Language Focus sections that address linguistic elements as they affect the wider rhetorical objectives; and helps students position themselves as junior scholars in their academic communities.

I just flipped through it to think about what I’m hoping to get out of it, but I just got distracted because my library’s copy is full of pen and pencil, so now I’m just annoyed at it. I’ll get through that though. I think that I’ll definitely be able to get a lot out of this one it seems like it’s filled with checklists and charts to help me on my journey. It seems very practical which is definitely a good thing.

39874447The last book I chose is How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing by Paul J. Silvia. The title of this one caught my eye first because of course I want to write a lot and I also want to be productive, I feel like those two things are really at the heart of graduate school haha. Now, I know I said I was sharing these in the order I planned to read them, but as with They Say/I Say I sort of cheated with this one and I am actually on page eight. I started reading the intro while I was waiting for my ride after work. I think, based on that eight pages of reading, and the fact that I already picked up some tips and tricks from that portion alone, I am going to get a fair bit out of reading this particular book.

All academics need to write, but many struggle to finish their dissertations, articles, books, or grant proposals. Writing is hard work and can be difficult to wedge into a frenetic academic schedule. How can we write it all while still having a life?

In this second edition of his popular guidebook, Paul Silvia offers fresh advice to help you overcome barriers to writing and use your time more productively. After addressing some common excuses and bad habits, he provides practical strategies to motivate students, professors, researchers, and other academics to become better and more prolific writers. Silvia draws from his own experience in psychology to explain how to write, submit, and revise academic work, from journal articles to books, all without sacrificing evenings, weekends, and vacations. The tips and strategies in this second edition have been updated to apply to academic writing in most disciplines. Also new to this edition is a chapter on writing grant and fellowship proposals.

Because this one looks at the psychological angle of writing I think it will be especially beneficial to me. That analysis will definitely help me explore how to keep my academic writing muscles flexed.

Overall I’m incredibly excited to be on the journey to my MLIS. It’s something I’ve wanted for so long so realizing the dream is huge. I don’t want to let my nerves about writing get the better of me. So wish me luck as I attempt to quell my nerves by reading all five of the above books in the next 21 days…I may be more than slightly over-ambitious with that goal…

In addition to being a Contributing Writer here at Hack Library School, Lauren (she/her) is currently working towards her MLIS part-time, online, through the University of Alberta, she expects to graduate in Spring 2022. She holds an honours BA in English/Religion & Culture and a BEd, both from Wilfrid Laurier University. Her interests are copyright, open education; accessibility; and diversity, equity, and inclusion in LIS. Lauren is the Copyright and Reserves Supervisor at Wilfrid Laurier University, serving on the Library’s Accessibility Committee, and the Student Advisory Council. She also co-hosts a bi-weekly Twitter chat on library issues and trends (#lisprochat) and is a research assistant on the Opening Up Copyright project. Find her: @rendages, @lisprochat |

Categories: Reading

1 reply

  1. Great post! I started my MLS after 21 years out of school, and I wish I’d found and read these books ahead of time! Good luck (and enjoy!) with your MLS studies. It’ll be worth it!


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