Undergraduate vs. Graduate-Level Writing

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Academic writing requires students to put additional effort into researching, constructing, and supporting their arguments. The standard of developing scholarly writing is high because such texts have the purpose of providing readers with reliable knowledge, critical thought and clear analysis. While there are many similarities between aspects of undergraduate and graduate papers, these different levels of education also ask students to adhere to specific and unique rules for each one. The rules for undergraduate writing are used by students working towards a Bachelor’s degree, and graduate-level writing guidelines should be utilized by those who wish to receive a Master’s or a Doctoral degree.

General Requirements

Students should follow these standards for the majority of academic papers:

  • Base the work on credible sources – since academic papers often introduce arguments or discuss previously discovered knowledge, they should contain reliable evidence that can be proven.
  • Make sure that all arguments, points, or conclusions follow one another in a logical succession. This will help to make the paper persuasive and understandable.
  • Follow an essay structure (introduction, body, and conclusion). This is preferable for most assignments, although there may be exceptions.
  • Deliver the information using an academic style. This means that the language of the essay is declarative, formal, and concise – students should avoid using emotional and informal phrasing and ensure they are specific in their statements.
  • Adhere to the standards of a formatting style specific to the type of assignment. All utilized sources should be formatted according to the chosen style of the paper such as APA, MLA, or others. The utilized sources have to be referenced using the same style.
  • Avoid plagiarism – express original thoughts and cite ideas that belong to others.

Specific Requirements

Since undergraduate and graduate students pursue different educational goals, their writing guidelines also possess unique features. Undergraduate students:

  • Receive prompts or topics that they should research and discuss.
  • Gather information from other sources and present it, thus learning the foundations of exploratory research.
  • Use academic, but general, vocabulary and implement terms that they acquire during lectures and seminars.

The purpose of undergraduate-level papers is to facilitate learning and understanding of the material.

On the other hand, graduate students put significant effort into their papers’ original content. In this case, students are treated as scholars and professionals. Through their papers, they add their voice to the academic discussion and provide their findings along with other studies:

  • Graduate assignments are not based on provided prompts but developed research questions.
  • Future graduates may gather scholarly data, summarize or paraphrase, and synthesize results to reveal correlations or differences. Then, they conduct in-depth research and provide findings with the aim of contributing to their chosen field of study.
  • Graduate writing asks for specific language and terms since most papers are shared with other scholars knowledgeable in the field.
  • The formatting of the paper also differs from a simple essay structure – research-based papers also include a methodology, literature review, discussion, and other parts.
  • The work done by graduate students is considered to be a part of academic research, thus requiring more attention to editing, as well as a more thorough understanding of the topic than undergraduate papers.


Academic writing follows many rules, some of which apply to all levels of studying, while others are unique to particular degrees. Students should remember that their use of tone, language, evidence, and structure is what creates the foundation for a scholarly paper. The primary goal of undergraduate writing assignments is to teach students to search for, interpret, and understand data. These papers require a student to explore topics and present gathered information. In contrast, graduate students are viewed as part of a scholarly field. As such, they should employ the rules of graduate writing and synthesize knowledge, provide insights, and contribute to the existing research.

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