Skip to main content

Notes From a Writer's Desk: Back-to-School Kit

The start of the fall term is just two weeks away, bringing with it preparations for a new academic year. Perhaps you’re excited about the upcoming year. But maybe you’re also feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of everything that comes with the fall: new courses, new teaching, possibly entering the job market, beginning a fieldwork year, or embarking on your dissertation completion year. 

Here at the Fellowships & Writing Center, we’ve compiled a Back-to-School Kit to help you launch into this new academic year with confidence!

Writing Style

Start your academic year off with style by refreshing your approach to writing! Our Fellowships & Writing Center Canvas Site is full of valuable resources on the mechanics and style of writing. Improve the clarity of your writing and elevate your prose using our library of materials. The Bok Center’s Professional Communication for International Scholars Canvas Site is a resource tailored to English-language academic communication skills. 

Managing Your Research and Writing

As you plan your research projects, be sure to check out the GSAS Writing Toolkit. Put together by the Harvard Library, this guide highlights key steps in research design, execution, and writing. At the Fellowships & Writing Center, we use several different software tools to help manage our own research and writing. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Zotero is a free, open-source reference manager with the added features of PDF annotation, highlighting, notes, and tags. It integrates with word processors and web browsers with simple plug-ins, too, making your searching and citing process seamless. The Harvard Libraries offer significant support for users of this tool, and Harvard affiliates get free unlimited cloud storage.
  • Scrivener was originally designed for fiction writing, but it has been adopted by many academics. It is essentially a digital binder that helps you organize your research, notes, and prose with additional features such as summary and comment sidebars.
  • DevonThink is a robust tool for organizing all aspects of your research process. It’s particularly useful for archival research, as it lets you build a fully customized database for storing your document scans, reading notes, images, and other materials.
  • Harvard students get free access to NVivo, a qualitative data analysis tool. Essential for anyone in the social sciences, NVivo does analysis of text and image, assists with coding, and can generate data visualizations, among other features. 

Finding Fellowships

One of the most daunting things about starting a new academic year is that the timing coincides with fellowship and grant applications. As a point of departure, use Harvard’s database of fellowships, CARAT, which has information about internal and external awards. You can also receive customized suggestions for fellowship opportunities through Harvard Link. Developed by the Vice Provost’s Center for Advances in Learning, this tool uses existing information about your Harvard profile and role to generate suggestions for funding, news, syllabi, and networking. Other excellent resources for your fellowships search include UCLA’s graduate and postdoc funding database, the University of Illinois Fellowship Finder, and the Johns Hopkins postdoctoral funding database.

Staying Organized

The start of a new academic year is a great time to assess whether your system for staying organized still works for you. The Academic Resource Center provides support for students in the form of academic coaching, accountability groups, and workshops on various topics. If you have to manage multiple deadlines (such as for fellowship applications), you might consider trying Google Tasks, which integrates easily with Gmail and Google Calendar. Or perhaps a robust project management tool like Trello can help you manage different workstreams (e.g., teaching, writing, applications). Of course, nothing beats a great Post-It Note!

No matter what projects lie ahead, do your best to approach the new year with enthusiasm and an open mind. And if you need help with any aspects of the writing process, we will be here for you! 

Ready to book an appointment with FWC staff? Access the FWC intake form.

Harvard Griffin GSAS Newsletter and Podcast

Get the Latest Updates

Subscribe to Colloquy Podcast

Conversations with scholars and thinkers from Harvard's PhD community
Apple Podcasts Spotify
Simplecast Stitcher

Connect with us