Writing in Liberal Studies

As a student, you will find that writing in liberal studies embodies a different approach as you are writing on the boundaries of a variety of disciplines. Throughout your time in the B.S. in Liberal Studies or M.S. in Liberal Studies program, you will identify a disciplinary home that will be paramount as you work toward your capstone course. In each course, you will weave other disciplines together with your home discipline to present well-researched and documented texts that explore specific topics through a variety of disciplines.

Interdisciplinary scholarship is critical to the advancement of knowledge in academia. By viewing questions and problems through a multitude of disciplinary lenses, interdisciplinary scholars often see facets of issues that other writers and researchers do not. Their contributions can be invaluable to offering more nuanced perspectives that enable significant breakthroughs across and within disciplines.

It is important that you communicate your research on a specific topic through thoroughly researched facts, through a thorough discussion of the key scholars and research that are most relevant to your topic. These projects are research-based and will require you to craft a specific and well-constructed thesis (or argument) that you defend with specific evidence; you will present multiple perspectives on a topic in a nuanced examination that is based on facts and supported by evidence. It will take extensive questioning and research by you to be successful writing as an interdisciplinary scholar.

Keys to Success Writing Across Disciplines

  • You will develop a disciplinary home, so adhere to that disciplinary style in your writing.
  • Make sure to explain how and why you are drawing upon other disciplines as you go along. Knowing your rationales is important for your audience.
  • Find ways to place the disciplines in conversation with each other productively while respecting the boundaries between disciplines.
  • Focusing on facts can help you to avoid being biased when placing various disciplines in conversation with one another.
  • You are expected to examine multiple perspectives on an issue. As a result, make sure to write about topics that you can examine as objectively as possible.
  • Draw on personal experience sparingly, and only where it is valuable. Remember to primarily make your arguments by drawing upon scholarly evidence and argumentation styles. An awareness of your audience will help you to make decisions about such inclusions.

Exploring Through—and Across—Disciplines

  • Extensive research and prewriting are extremely important in liberal studies. You need to fully explore your topic across a variety of disciplines in order to write confidently about it.
  • Start with a research question you are open to exploring. Use your research to find your thesis, not support an already existing thesis.
  • When tracing an idea or concept across fields, learn disciple specific terminology and be flexible in your search strategies.
  • Strong initial questions will lead you to better and deeper questions.
  • Be passionate about your topic yet avoid becoming too inflexible in your positions.
  • Walk your audience through your thought processes. Remember, they might not be familiar with the discipline you are engaging.
  • Be careful of assuming too much background knowledge—you are working across disciplines. Certain readers will not be familiar with the knowledge, theories, and values of other disciplines.

Employ a Clear and Easy to Read Writing Style

  • Use a clear and succinct writing style. Comprehension for your reader is key.
  • Employ short, active sentences. Your actor should be at the front of the sentence, and you should avoid burying your subjects and verbs as they are what is being negotiated.
  • Use your own voice and plain language. Readers need to hear your voice.
  • Define all technical terms in line with their academic use—your readers may not be familiar with the terminology of a specific discipline. Avoid general dictionary definitions where possible.
  • Be specific with your claims and make sure your reader knows exactly what you are saying.
  • Use evidence and reasoning that is valued in each particular discipline.
  • Weave perspectives, theories, and evidence together to make your point. Avoid addressing only one discipline at a time in a mechanical fashion.
  • Explicate your thought process as clearly as possible. How you arrived at your answers and conclusions is as important as the answers and conclusions at which you arrived. However, do not narrate the minute specifics of your writing and research processes.

Organization Should Be Topical, Not Predicated on the Disciplines

  • As with most academic writing, you will want to include an introduction with thesis statement, body paragraphs with transitions, and a strong conclusion.
  • Your body paragraphs should include objective evidence and solid reasoning.
  • Make sure to transition smoothly between ideas. Transitions are especially important when you are writing across disciplines.
  • Your writing should be organized around various facets of your topic rather than moving from one discipline to another in discreet sections. Weave all your disciplines together.
  • Remember, your paper is organized around the topic, not the disciplines.

Helpful Resources

Purdue OWL APA
Purdue OWL Chicago Manual of Style
Purdue OWL MLA
APA Student Manuscript Jumpstart Sheet
APA Professional Manuscript Jumpstart Sheet
Chicago/Turabian Style Jumpstart Sheet
MLA Jumpstart Sheet

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