Classic Guides to Writing

The Fellowships & Writing Center at Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is the best resource for GSAS students interested in producing clear, logical, persuasive, elegant, and engaging scholarly writing. In combination with their assistance and the latest guidance from your chosen manual of style, the old standards are as resonant as ever: 

  • The Elements of Style
    This classic text by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White presents a concise style manual that provides the basic elementary principles of English usage and composition, with tips on commonly misused words and expressions, style, and spelling.
  • On Revision: The Only Writing That Counts
    Germano explains how to get your writing up to the level where it matters not just to yourself but to others. Revision goes far beyond the usual advice to cut for concision, discussing revision as expansion, structural revision across the larger span of a work, revision as response to one's audience, and revision as rethinking ...  On Revision steps back to take in the big picture, showing authors how to hear their own writing voice and how to reread their work as if they didn't write it.
  • Style: Lessons of Clarity and Grace
    Joseph M. Williams' clear, accessible style models the kind of writing that audiencesboth in college and afterwill admire. The principles offered in this manual help writers understand what readers expect and encourage writers to revise to meet those expectations more effectively. This book is all many might need to understand the principles of effective writing. Revised by Gregory G. Colomb.
  • Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success 
    A much-appreciated and great all-around guide for writing, this is the only reference book to combine expert guidance with a step-by-step workbook for writing a journal article.

Writing in a Second Language

Conducting doctoral research and writing is even more challenging when writing in a second language. The following resources may ease the process.

  • Professional Communication Program for International Students and Scholars
    Through this program, Harvard University's Derek Book Center for Teaching and Learning supports international PhD students, teachers, and scholars at every stage of their academic careers.
  • Reading, Writing, and Discussing at the Graduate Level: A Guidebook for International Students
    From the publisher: "The purpose of this book is to help international students navigate the academic issues they will encounter while attending graduate school in the United States. This book provides guidelines for conquering the obstacles that international graduate students often face, such as developing independent ideas based on required readings, participating in classroom discussions effectively, organizing academic papers, and effectively managing academic work and social relationships. This book is an invaluable tool for international graduate students and their instructors and mentors."
  • Thesis and Dissertation Writing in a Second Language: A Handbook for Students and Their Supervisors
    This book by Brian Paltridge and Sue Starfield uses accessible language and practical examples to discuss issues that are crucial to successful thesis and dissertation writing. This edition offers insights into the experience of being a doctoral writer, issues of writer identity, and writing with authority; typical language and discourse features of theses and dissertations; advice on the structure and organisation of key sections; suggestions for online resources which support writing; extracts from completed theses and dissertations; guidance on understanding examiner expectations; and advice on publishing.
  • Translation: A Guide to Harvard Libraries in Plain English
    This research guide created by Harvard librarian, Anna Assogba, serves as a helpful tool for students whose first language is not English.

Grant Writing

A successful grant proposal draws on specialized writing skills. The following resources may prove useful in your endeavor to secure funding for a scholarly project.

  • The Grant Writing Guide: A Road Map for Scholars
    This book by Betty S. Lai, forthcoming from Princeton University Press in January 2023, promises to be "an essential handbook for writing research grants, providing actionable strategies for professionals in every phase of their careers, from PhD students to seasoned researchers."

Note Taking Tips

Librarians have experience with efficient note-taking tools and practices to help you retain what you learn along your research journey and hold on to your best ideas as you make connections among sources. Below is a selection to get you started.

  • Zotero gives you free, unlimited storage for the research materials you access in PDF form and the notes you make about them. 
    • Register with your Harvard email address to access unlimited storage through Zotero.
  • Keep Track, a module from Unabridged On Demand, provides general tips about staying organized and on task, including productivity strategies, workflows, and note-taking formats.

Back Up Your Files

Have a file backup plan, just in case. Having multiple copies, accessible in multiple ways, is essential. An external hard drive, a USB flash drive, stored safely, will help you sleep soundly as deadlines approach:

Harvard Sites for Writers

Writing is the lifeblood of scholarship and a point of Crimson pride at Harvard. Keep your pen in hand and your finger on the pulse of what's available to you here.

  • Finding Your Voice: Understanding Academic Integrity and Graduate Writing at Harvard
    Academic writing at the graduate level is different from other writing you may have done in the past. Learn more about what it means to be a successful writer at Harvard and a contributor to the scholarly conversation in your discipline.
  • Gen Ed Writes
    A resource for faculty, teaching fellows and teaching assistants, and undergraduate students in Harvard's General Education courses.
  • Harvard Guide to Using Sources
    Essential guide to using sources in academic writing.
  • HarvardWrites
    A resource for writers and teachers of writing, HarvardWrites is a joint venture of the Harvard College Writing Program, the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, and the departments and schools represented on our site. The project was made possible through a generous grant from the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT).
  • Harvard Writing Project Writing Guides
    A wide range of writing guides that encourage better writing through practical advice and useful examples. There are four principal types of writing guides: (1) for disciplines or interdisciplinary programs, (2) for specific courses, (3) for specific genres of writing, and (4) for General Education courses.
  • X-Writes
    This series of websites offers broad introductions to how the writing practices of disciplines are shaped by their particular methodological and epistemological commitments. Thus, the X-Writes websites aim to help students understand the underlying logic and rationale for disciplinary writing conventions.