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What Doctoral Level Professors Expect

What professors expect at the doctoral level is as close to perfect as you can get, especially in terms of the format, spelling, grammar, and “cleanness” of a paper. A doctoral level professor should be able to “flip through” your paper and put an A on it for its impressiveness in showcasing your research and writing skill. Most of all, they want to see that you can do the simple things right. Turn in a clean document, one free of errors, documented correctly, formatted perfectly, with perfect APA, MLA, Chicago, or Harvard Style. See, it’s not hard to take one moment to Google one of these styles and copy the examples. There are also formatting wizards to help. In short, turning in a paper with even the slightest error at this point will tell the professor that you don’t really care that much.

Research Methods for Doctoral-Level Papers

One basic standard for evaluating doctoral students’ work is to look at the quality and quantity of research they consult when they write a given academic paper or assignment. For example, if you have to write a ten-page paper on William Faulkner’s book Go Down, Moses, you would want to show your professors several kinds of research skills in this one ten-page work, namely that you know how to:

  • consult works of criticism from high-quality book presses
  • find high-quality journals and select insightful articles
  • integrate quotes, ideas, and insights from these critics into your own work with style and correctness
  • cite and attribute your sources correctly
  • maintain an argument over the course of a long paper
  • write a good conclusion and introduction

In other words, don’t agonize over your sentences or try to sound as poetic or write as well as the researchers you are reading. Simply showcase your knowledge, study, and insights into the works you have studied. Professors aren’t looking for great writing talent, they are looking for accuracy, citation, good organizational skills, following the rules of grammar and citation, and error-free prose.

The Art of Using Quotes to Put Together a Paper: It Works

Since graduate professors want to see, most of all, that you have really researched your topic, a good technique that takes the anxiety out of graduate level writing is to read your articles with a highlighter in hand. Then, highlight any quotes, tables, or information you want to refer to in your essay. If you organize these quotes into a logical order by typing them out into a document, you can literally see the paper develop. You can move some quotes up or down and watch the flow develop—the flow of the paper.

A research paper is, after all, a showcase of your knowledge on the extant research, and the major skill professors will want to see here is your art of showcasing what you have read. So use quotation or paraphrase (in the age of Google matching and plagiarism checkers, however, it is always much safer to quote than paraphrase). Here is a simple example on the problem of polar life and global warming:

You might type down 20 quotes like the following for a 15-page paper:

Jones (2011) notes that, “if we don’t do something about global warming soon, all polar life will perish.” (APA style from an online article)

Adams (2016) notes that “polar bear populations are diminishing rapidly” (p. 5). (APA style from a print journal article).

And so forth. You’ll arrange these in a logical order and brainstorm how to tie it all together. You’ll literally see what to say to connect these words. It works.

The Importance of Creating a Showcase

In short, showcase your knowledge with a paper that shows you care enough to proofread thoroughly. If you are in a big class, someone will be flipping through like 200 essays. Often, this and topic sentences is what they read and good writing, grammar, and documentation might be all their eyes really see! But for yourself, really read the paper and see if it’s a good read and if it tells the reader your insights plus the research. That’s what professors want. Just realize this, professors want something that says, “This student worked hard and learned something for this A+”.