Using Commas Correctly: Punctuating with Confidence

Correct comma usage is an art, not a science. Writers will sometimes disagree on when to use a comma or omit one; to help you as you write, here are a few general rules for using commas. These examples and the rules they’re based upon are drawn from the 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style, one of the core texts on proper language usage and formatting.

Subject-Verb Agreement

Number matters

When writing sentences, the verb conjugates according to the subject. The general rule of thumb for conjugating verbs is that if there's one person, place, or thing as the subject (not just one noun), then the verb is conjugated in the singular. If there are multiple people, places, or things, then the verb is conjugated in the plural. In other words, the verb and subject agree in number.

Resources for Writing a Thesis or Dissertation

Developing Quality Dissertations: A Graduate Student’s Guide to Achieving Excellence

Barbara Lovitts and Ellen Wert

Dissertation Support Groups for PH.D. Students

Finishing your dissertation? You don’t have to go it alone. According to Michael Kiparsky, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow in the Energy and Resources Group (ERG) at the University of California at Berkeley, a peer support group can “guide you through the confusion, improve your writing, and help you spend your time wisely.”

Advice for Completing a Thesis or Dissertation

Research on graduate students' experiences with writing a thesis or dissertation suggests many students aren’t always sure what to expect when they begin the process. Dr. Ken Oldfield, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, Springfield, offers these strategies along with some tips on how to manage the process. We’ve included advice from three UNL graduate students who’ve recently completed a thesis or dissertation.

The Ethics of Authorship

You've spent the last year researchingand writing an article you’re hoping to publish. As you start the task of editing your work, you should also ask yourself, “who deserves authorship credit?” Authorship, especially for a graduate student, can be a difficult issue. Should your adviser receive credit? What about the other graduate students in your lab who helped run your research experiment?

Think and Act Like a Writer

by Jan Allen, Associate Dean for Ph.D. Programs, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, Columbia University (reprinted with permission)

Do you think of yourself as a writer? Or are you just a graduate student who must write to complete the requirements for your degree, to get published, to get a job? Are you a faculty member who must write to keep your job, to get tenured, to get promoted in your job? It might help if you start to think and act like a writer. Here’s how:

Tips for Publishing in Graduate School

One skill that can be critical to the success of a graduate student is the ability to publish. We collected the following tips from experienced faculty who have guided students successfully into the publishing world. If getting published is one of your goals, these bits of advice will give you some insight on how to reach it.

Writing About Your Research: Verb Tense

Consistency of verb tense helps ensure smooth expression in your writing. The practice of the discipline for which you write typically determines which verb tenses to use in various parts of a scientific document. In general, however, the following guidelines may help you know when to use past and present tense. If you have questions about tense or other writing concerns specific to your discipline, check with your adviser.

Demystifying Dissertation Writing

By Peg Boyle Single, Ph.D.

The dissertation is many things: an opportunity to present your work as a graduate student, the last hurdle to graduation and the culmination of years of hard work. The dissertation is also a process that, without a little help, can be overwhelming. Demystifying Dissertation Writing, by Peg Boyle Single, takes the seemingly overwhelming task of completing a dissertation and breaks it down into easy-to-follow steps.