Guidelines for Writing Graduate Papers


The guidelines contain hyperlinks to on-line sources you may find helpful. The links are neither authoritative nor exhaustive; they are meant to provide “food for thought” and aid you in becoming successful academic writers. Our graduate faculty also follows these guidelines.


The Guidelines aim to

  1. strengthen the culture of student research at VU; 
  2. introduce standards for writing graduate level papers; 
  3. fulfill the department’s responsibility to prepare students for academic writing; 
  4. reconcile diverging faculty and student expectations; 
  5. decrease the number of “N” grades in the graduate program; 
  6. facilitate the timely completion of papers.

Chicago Manual of Style

Our students follow Chicago Manual of Style conventions for all written assignments. The Manual presents two basic documentation systems, the humanities style [notes and bibliography] and the author-date system. Ask your professor which citation style he or she prefers.

The Chicago Manual of Style Online is available. The manual (Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers, University of Chicago Press) is also in Falvey Library at the Reference-Information Desk (Call Number: LB2369.T8 2007).

English Grammar

We expect all papers to be written in correct English grammar. In other words, faculty do not proof-read papers.

Paper Genre

It is your responsibility to familiarize yoursef with the specific genre requirements for each written assignment (e.g., abstract; explication; opinion paper; reflection paper; research paper; essay; book or article review; literature review). In other words, we presuppose your familiarity with academic writing standards.

If a writing assignment differs significantly from academic paper writing standards, your syllabus will provide detailed – if applicable, area specific – guidelines. If not, ask for clarification, especially if you are not familiar with (1) sources pertinent to the area of studies and (2) ways to find specialist literature relevant to your research project.

Research Groups

We encourage you to form research groups (small writing support groups, not shared projects) of 3-4 students who gather throughout the semester to talk through their progress, share writing/flow-charts/outlines etc. with each other.