Writing in the Humanities and Arts

Graduate Student Resource Center

The Genres of Graduate School
Introductions to Writing in the Humanities and Arts
More Resources on Writing in the Arts
Introduction to Academic Book Publishing
Online Research Guides by Subject

The Genres of Graduate School

The books and articles below offer advice on writing dissertations, theses, articles, proposals, and abstracts in the humanities and arts (although some of these sources address a broader audience).

AHA Graduate and Early Career Committee. From Concept to Completion: A Dissertation-Writing Guide for History Students. 2008.
Twelve historians offer advice on the dissertation-writing process in the field of history. Includes chapters on choosing a topic, obtaining funding, managing the dissertation committee, organizing archival materials, using sources, and overcoming writer’s block.

Belcher, Wendy Laura. Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks. 2009.
This workbook takes the approach to scheduling and work style that productivity scholars recommend and tailors its advice to the specificity of the journal article for humanities and social scientists. It is helpful on several fronts: first, in breaking down the process of writing the article into manageable parts and second, in explaining several other genres that graduate students need to be aware of, particularly the abstract.

Blanpain, Kristin. Academic Writing in the Humanities and Social Sciences: A Resource for Researchers.
This workbook offers explanations, examples, and exercises designed to help scholars improve the grammar and flow of their writing. It includes discussions of academic style and academic genres (literature reviews, abstracts, research articles, etc.).

Bolker, Joan. Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis. 1998.
This is one of several “write your dissertation” guides on the market, and it’s one of relatively few that gears itself toward writers of all disciplines. Bolker here is part career counselor, part writing coach, and part therapist. She seems particularly interested in the ways that graduate students block themselves from completing the dissertation through fear, ambivalence, procrastination, etc. Recommended as a general reference on the dissertation process, although some issues might require more specialized help for individual writers.

Carlson, Maria. Submitting A Grant Proposal: Risks, Benefits, and How to Succeed. An online article by the Director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Kansas. Written with humanities scholars in mind, this tutorial includes sections on abstracts, proposal narratives, the audience, common review panel criteria, and recommendations.

Clark, Irene L. Writing the Successful Thesis and Dissertation: Entering the Conversation. 2006.
This title is regarded by many in composition studies as the best book on dissertation writing. Some of the writing strategies may be oriented more towards the humanities and social sciences, but the book offers excellent advice on writing process issues that is helpful to graduate students in all fields.

Gillis, Christina M. Writing Proposals for ACLS Fellowship Competitions. A guide for fellowship applicants in all fields of the humanities, with advice on tailoring the proposal for its audience, creating an effective structure, explaining the project's significance, and positioning research in relation to previous work.

Compiled by Beverly Joyce, Bill Moseley and Kathy Porsch. Guide to Proposal Development in the Humanities for Graduate Students ©.
A concise guide to the steps involved in locating funding opportunities and writing applications for grants and fellowships. Includes advice on preparing CVs, bibliographies, abstracts, and budgets.

Lovitts, Barbara E. and Ellen Wert. Developing Quality Dissertations in the Humanities: A Graduate Student’s Guide to Achieving Excellence. 2008. Stylus Publishing.
A concise booklet designed to define and explain expectations for dissertations in the humanities.

Swales, John, and Christine Feak. English in Today’s Research World. 2000.
This textbook-workbook-self-study guide is marketed to all graduate students, though it’s really designed for those who speak English as an additional language. It covers abstracts, dissertation-writing, academic communications, literature reviews, and more.

Zerubavel, Eviatar. The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Theses, Dissertations, and Books. 1999.
Working from the premise that "It is methodicalness and routinization. . . that help us produce theses, dissertations, and books," (3), this short book presents a detailed process for coming up with a realistic writing schedule and deadlines. Zerubavel explains management strategies for long writing projects: scheduling regular writing time, making outlines, setting realistic expectations, adhering to deadlines, etc.

Introduction to Academic Book Publishing

UCLA Editor in Residence Program. UCLA Humanities Division has hosted a number of talks by editors of academic presses who have presented on how to prepare book proposals and book publications. See especially the video archive of these presentations, which for the most part require a UCLA login.

The Association of University Presses provides a resource page for prospective faculty authors, including a page that provides resources for finding a publisher.  The web page on finding a publisher links to an annual subject area grid that indicates which publishers have strong interests in which fields and sub-fields. There are additional resources on university presses and advice about getting published.

Introductions to Writing in the Humanities and Arts

Although the following books target an undergraduate audience, graduate students who seek clear explanations of methodologies in their fields may find them useful.

Barnet, Sylvan. A Short Guide to Writing About Art. 9th ed. 2007.

---. A Short Guide to Writing About Literature. 11th ed. 2008.

Bellman, Jonathan. A Short Guide to Writing About Music. 2nd ed. 2006.

Corrigan, Timothy. A Short Guide to Writing About Film. 7th ed. 2009.

Marius, Richard A. A Short Guide to Writing About History. 7th ed. 2009.

More Resources on Writing in the Arts

This web resource contains tips for different types of writing in the arts, plus brainstorming ideas and specific vocabulary words with their explanations.

Good resource on writing about the arts, art history from UNC Chapel Hill.

Online Research Guides by Subject

These online guides offer discipline-specific links and tips for library research at UCLA. They include links to databases, catalogues, dictionaries, encyclopedias, electronic texts, and online archives.

This page was created by Allison Crumly. To suggest a resource or report a broken link, email the GWC at gwc@gsa.asucla.ucla.edu.