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non-Leiterific grad student

*Stylish Academic Writing* (Sword) may be worth a look. In addition to writing a lot, it's important to read a lot, and with purpose. Read important articles in your field and taking note of their good- and bad-making qualities. What makes this paper so easy to read? Why is this paper on vagueness---which, by all accounts, should be dry as dust---a page-turner? Why am I struggling to parse this author's sentences, and is it my fault or theirs? (It's probably theirs!) Once you've mastered more basic elements of composition, it's time to work on the little things that, in point of fact, make all the difference.

Trevor Hedberg

It's not about academic writing, but I have always found Stephen King's _On Writing_ to be a great resource in this regard. Many of the general rules he discusses will make your writing clearer and more focused if you follow them in your own work, whether it's fiction or non-fiction.

As for more philosophy-specific writing guides, there are quite a few floating around online. I recently came across this one from Harvard: https://philosophy.fas.harvard.edu/files/phildept/files/brief_guide_to_writing_philosophy_paper.pdf

If these turn out to be too basic to suit the inquirer's needs, then I think Marcus is right: the most likely thing that's needed is just more practice. There aren't many shortcuts to getting better at writing: you get better at it gradually over time.


Graduate students at the University of Oklahoma host a writing sample workshop/conference. I don't know where the writer is, but there may be similar events nearby.

Non-native speaker

I read this short piece years ago and found it immensely helpful. I think it did wonders to my prose (and I have friends who report the same):



This isn't directly on the writing resource question, but about : "I'm more or less on my own since I'm no longer in school and my professors from my previous school have their hands full with their current students."

Just speaking from my own experience, I'm always happy to offer extensive feedback on the materials of people that I write letters for, and my own letter writers did the same for me when I was applying to grad school. So I'd encourage you to get help from those previous supervisors, even if you're done with the program. They'll probably have helpful things to say about strengthening one of your current papers into a writing sample.


anon: It is always worth trying! But in my experience, those requests are often ignored. I am not sure if my experience is common, but I am more sure it is not uncommon.

Pendaran Roberts

For a fee we can negotiate, I'd be happy to read through your writing sample and help with the language and argumentation. I have a PhD and a dozen published papers, many in top 20 journals. I can probably be of service.



I agree with anon. If you haven't checked with your previous supervisors, I think that's a good idea. If you have, and they haven't been helpful, see if they'll put you in touch with recent alumni who've been successful at getting into PhD programs. I've gotten a lot of help from alumni of my program, even if we didn't overlap.


I am a 2nd year PhD candidate. I always suggest James Pryor's guide to Philosophical Writing to improve, it helped me a lot.


However, the best thing is looking at the papers that you consider at the top of your research field (i.e. logic, ethics, philosophy of mind, etc.); look at their structure and ask why they are very well-written paper. Afterwards, try to "emulate" the points that you considered stronger in them in your writing. Then practice, practice and revise your paper until you are satsfied. Eventually make read your piece of writing to a friend or colleague for feedback and then start again.

I needed a long time to improve (and I am still improving), but in this way I enhanced my writing style A LOT.


Thank You all for responding. Unfortunately, after I posted this question I waited to long to come back and check. Because of that I couldn't for the life of me remember which blog it was that I asked this question, until today. Obviously, it's too late to adopt the advice. Fortunately, I was able to land an adjunct position at a local university and the faculty there helped me with the sample. But did not get much help from my past faculty, which is understandable because I'm sure they are busy. Just finished applying to half the schools, so I'm hoping it is good enough. Again Thank you guys for your suggestions.


I don't care if past faculty are "busy". It is literally their job to help MA students apply to PhD programs. It is a shame that stuff like this happens in our discipline so often.

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