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Graduate Peers' Schedules

Winter 2016
Peer Advisor Availability

Writing Peer
Kyle Crocco

Mon: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Tue: 10 a.m.-noon
Wed: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Thu: 10 a.m.-noon

Funding Peer
Stephanie Griffin
Mon: 10 a.m.-noon
Wed: noon-2 p.m.

Diversity Peer
Ana Romero

Mon: noon-2 p.m.
Wed: 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

The peers sometimes hold events or attend meetings during their regular office hours. To assure you connect with your Graduate Peer Advisor, we encourage you to contact them by email and make an appointment.


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Phrase it Right with Academic Phrasebank

Academic PhrasebankAt a loss for the right words? It happens to the best of us. Fortunately there are useful examples to get your academic phrases right at the University of Manchester Academic Phrasebank.

Whether you are a newbie at the academic writing game, a non-native English speaker, or an old pro in a word jam, there's a useful phrase for everyone.

They have multiple examples for all parts of your thesis, dissertation, or research paper for: referring to sources, describing methods, reporting results, discussing findings, and writing conclusions.

You can use their site for free or pay for a PDF version of the phrasebank booklet.


Peer Advisors' Office Hours for Fall 2015

The Graduate Division's Peer Advisors are here to help you. Each peer keeps office hours in the Graduate Student Resource Center, which is located in the Student Resource Building, Room 1215.

Writing Peer, Kyle Crocco
Monday and Wednesday: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Tuesday and Thursday: 10-11 a.m.

Funding Peer, Stephanie Griffin
Monday: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Wednesday: 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Friday: 9-11 a.m.

Professional Development Peer, Shawn Warner-Garcia
Monday-Thursday: 10 a.m. to noon

Communications Peer, Melissa Rapp
Monday: 12-2 p.m.
Wednesday: 12-3 p.m.

Diversity Peer, Charles Williams

Tuesday and Thursday: 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

The peers sometimes hold events or attend meetings during their regular office hours. To ensure that you connect with your Graduate Peer Advisor, we encourage you to contact them by email to make an appointment.


How to be a Devil or Angel When Giving Feedback on Writing

Angel and DevilYou can be the devil or an angel when giving feedback. Credit: openclipart.comIf you are in a writer’s group or helping another grad student with their writing, you can either be a devil or an angel when giving feedback.

Being a Devil

If you want to be a devil, make sure your feedback is aggressive, judgmental, general, and scattered. You'll know you have succeeded if you leave a person more confused and defensive than when you started. You get bonus points if you make them contemplate quitting school.

Being an Angel 

On the other hand, if you want be an angel you can provide feedback that is supportive, specific, descriptive, and prioritized. You'll know you'll have done a good job if you leave a writer feeling capable of improving his/her work and knowing exactly how to do it. You get bonus points if they offer you chocolate or a beer.

To be an Angel, you should be:

Supportive: Phrase your feedback in an encouraging manner, taking in account the kind of feedback issues your partner wanted addressed. For example: Good start on the description of your participants. Remember to explain the selection process.

Specific: Focus on a particular area or issue and then provide solutions or suggestions for improvement. For example: Your Methods Chapter needs headings for each section to provide better organization, such as Participants, Interview Protocol, and Coding.

Descriptive: Describe problem areas from a reader’s perspective. For example: Your reader might not be familiar with those technical terms, so provide a glossary they can refer to if needed.

Prioritized: Focus on the two of three most important areas to keep the revisions and feedback manageable. Prioritize the list into big and little points. Also, tailor it to the needs of what your friend or partner was looking for in the feedback.

For example: The main area you should work on in your results is organization. Organize your results by your research questions. You also need to decide what tables and graphs are the most important. You can move the least important into an appendix. Last, check your citations to match your list of references.


Lessons from the Intensive Dissertation Writing Retreat

Why are you writing a dissertation?

This was the first question that Dr. Katie Baillargeon asked participants to consider while preparing for the Intensive Dissertation Writing Retreat

Once I stopped hyperventilating, I realized what an awfully sobering, yet useful, question this is to actually force myself to answer: Why am I writing a dissertation? Being in my sixth year of graduate school and having just defended my dissertation prospectus last spring, you'd think that I would have considered this question before.

I’ll start off by saying that the Writing Retreat was not what I thought it was going to be. But I don’t say that in a negative way. I say that having emerged with a new realization from the experience: what I thought I knew about my own writing process and productivity – as well as what I am able to realistically accomplish in a week of dedicated writing time – was wrong.

In the tables below, I summarize some of the valuable lessons I learned by participating in the Writing Retreat.

I learned a lot over the course of the week, but not what I thought I would learn. I learned that my writing process works (or at least can work) really differently than I imagined it. In the low-stakes, yet intensive, environment of the Writing Retreat, I think that each of the participants came away with a toolbox of strategies, self-realizations, and support that will make us all more successful in our writing futures.

To read Writing Peer Kyle Crocco's workshop recaps from the Intensive Dissertation Writing Retreat, click below:


Dissertation Writing Retreat: Day Four

Any resemblance to people you know is entirely coincidental. Credit: openclipart.comWhen you're feeling like a pawn in some ridiculous academic game, the cure is some sound advice to keep you writing. The theme of the final Writing Retreat session was the three steps to maintaining motivation.

Step One: Review your writing process.

After writing for a week, compare your process to your writing goals for that same period. What took longer or shorter than you thought? What could be broken down into subtasks?

Step Two: Time Management

Now that you understand how you work, organize your tasks and plan for an entire week. First start with "must complete" tasks (e.g., job, family, working out); then add in "want-to-do" tasks (e.g., happy hour, Netflix, etc.). With the time slots remaining on your schedule, plan your dissertation writing time.

Tips for planning: Don't plan too much and set yourself up for failure. Remember to include a variety of tasks. Knowing yourself and your work habits, what can you reasonable accomplish in that time?

Step Three: Accountability

Find a writing partner: someone who is also writing a dissertation or thesis so you can compare progress, share your writing process, and keep on track.

For more tips on how to maintain your motivation, read the article "Motivate Yourself to Write", or make an appointment with someone who understands your pain, Writing Peer Kyle Crocco


Dissertation Writing Retreat: Day Three

Ferris Bueller's Day Off PosterAre you doing a Ferris Bueller and taking time off from your dissertation day after day? Lucky for you, today's Retreat topic was procrastination: what leads to it, reasons for it, and strategies to handle it. 

So consider the causes below to determine what's stopping you from working and then try some of the strategies to help you get back on track.

What Leads to Procrastination

Personality: What is your ability to tolerate negative emotions or to resist distractions?

Expectations: How long do you expect it take to complete your tasks or how complex do you think they are?

Skills/Habits: What are your time management skills or writing habits?

Mood: Is boredom or anxiety about the task, or maybe depression holding you back?

Reasons for Procrastination

Fears: Do you have a fear or failure, success, anxiety and catastrophe, judgment, or of the unknown?

Actions: Is perfectionism and micro managing, over planning, or overworking holding you back?

Habits: Do you self-sabotage by impossible expectations or indulge in guilt driven self-talk and criticism?

Feelings: Are you plagued with feelings of inadequacy, frustration, boredom, or being overwhelmed?

Strategies to Handle Procrastination

Remember SMART goals: Set realistic expectations; you don't have to be perfect.

Manage your writing environment (time and location)

Location: Where do you work best? (Home, coffee shop, library, other?). Work there. Mix it up if it stops working.

Time: What time of day works best for you? Schedule to work when you work best.

Plan breaks: Avoid overworking and help set up your time to reward your successes.

Leave a little bit for tomorrow: Stop when you're on a roll so you have a place to begin the next day.

If you would like help setting goals and tasks for your dissertation, set up an appointment with the Graduate Division's Writing Peer Kyle Crocco at


Free Webcast on Writing a Successful Grant Proposal

Becoming an independent researcher in academia is crucial to achieving future success. Part of that journey starts with getting your own funding.

In a live 60-minute webcast hosted by Naturejobs on September 30, four speakers will share their expertise on applying for a successful grant. Professor Susan Marriott will give advice on planning your funding applications; Dr. Peter Gorsuch will talk about shaping the content for your application to catch the reviewer’s attention; Dr. Alejandro Martin-Hobdey will share insights into getting a grant from the European Research Council; and Dr. Michael Mishkind from the National Science Foundation will talk about how to be successful in your applications.

The webcast will take place on September 30, 8-9 a.m. PST, and will feature one-on-one advising and panel discussions.

The webcast will also be made available online for six months after the live event on the Naturejobs blog.

For more information and to register for free, click here.


Dissertation Writing Retreat Recap: Day Two

Thinking about writingThinking about writing. Credit: openclipart.comFor those of you not attending this year's Dissertation Writing Retreat, here's a breakdown of what you missed. Today's advice: get out of the writing rut with the three perspectives strategies and use your writing to digest your reading.

Three Perspectives Strategies

When you're stuck in a rut and not sure where to go with your material, try these tricks to get you going again.

Describe and distinguish: Describe the sticking point from the macrolevel view and then break it down into components. How would you describe it to someone or a person in your field.

Trace moves and changes: How has the subject changed over time? How have other people examined it?

Map networks and relationships: Group your subject by placing it in the larger context; compare and contrast your subject to similar subjects.

Use Writing to Digest Reading

Here are a few methods using writing to make sense of what you are reading.

  • Look for repeated information
  • Connect reading to other readings
  • List what you understand and don't understand
  • Freewrite and/or write a brief summary of the material

If you would like help setting goals and tasks for your dissertation, set up an appointment with the Graduate Division's Writing Peer Kyle Crocco


Dissertation Writing Retreat Recap: Day One

BootcamperDissertation Bootcamper hard at work. Credit: openclipart.comFor those of you not attending this year's Intensive Dissertation Writing Retreat, here's a breakdown of what you missed on the first day: setting SMART goals and breaking down goals into subtasks. 

SMART goals

  • Specific: determine the what, when, and how of what you plan to do in detailed terms.
  • Measurable: define in numbers what you will do (pages written, hours worked, concepts worked on).
  • Achievable: make goals you can achieve realistically in the time allotted.
  • Relevant: consider which goals are most productive and important to you.
  • Time limited: set endpoints to your goals and then reevaluate and reassess your progress.


Now that you have goals, make them manageable by

  • Breaking down your goals into tasks: what do you need to do to achieve this goal?
  • Breaking down your tasks into subtasks: what steps do you need to complete each task?
  • Determining the time amount for subtasks: estimate how long will each task and subtask will take.

If you would like help setting goals and tasks for your dissertation, set up an appointment with the Graduate Division's Writing Peer Kyle Crocco


How to Align Your Time and Your Priorities as an Academic

Credit: Kyle SteedDid you know that you have access to a ton of great resources on the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD) website as part of UCSB's institutional membership? When you sign up for free, you can opt in to receive weekly Monday Motivator e-mails, with great information on upcoming events, career advice, and strategic planning.

This week's Monday Motivator recapped a webinar from NCFDD founder Kerry Ann Rockquemore on the Sunday Meeting, which is a 30-minute weekly planning meeting you have with yourself that is designed to help you align your time and your priorities. There are five simple steps to the weekly meeting:

Step 1: Create your skeleton. The meeting starts by blocking out all of your commitments for the week (research and writing time, classes, office hours, and meetings) as well as non-work items that you are committed to a specific time and place (such as child care pickup, date night, and/or Zumba class). Your commitments form the skeleton of your week because everything else has to be fleshed out on top of them.

Step 2: Brain dump. Write out all your to-do items for the week including the short term tasks you need to get done, as well as the strategic tasks associated with your long term research agenda (these should be listed by week in your strategic plan).

The purpose of this step is to: 1) reconnect you with your strategic plan on a weekly basis, 2) get everything out of your head and onto paper, and 3) to put you in a position to control your week (instead of your week controlling you). The brain dump can cause either relief or anxiety, but no matter how you feel about it in the moment, go on to the next step.

Step 3: Introduce your tasks to your calendar. Here's where it gets ugly! Turn back to your calendar for this week and assign each of your to-do items to a specific block of time. This will require you to estimate how long your tasks will take, prioritize what’s most important, and commit to actually doing specific work at specific times this week. Inevitably, you will have the same devastating realization each week: you don't have enough time to complete all the tasks on your to-do list.

Credit: Jurgen AppeloBreathe deeply. Having more tasks than time is the perfectly normal reality of academic life. No matter how frustrating it is, it's far better to deal with that reality at the beginning of the week then to walk blindly into that realization at the end of the week.

Step 4: Decide what to do with everything that doesn’t fit. Knowing that you have more tasks than time, consciously choose how you will spend your time this week. You may need to prioritize the tasks on your list and I suggest using the criteria by which you will be evaluated for your next step (whether it's passing your qualifying exams, going on the job market, or going up for tenure).

Step 5: Commit to executing the plan. Of course, the best-laid plans can be thrown into disarray by unexpected circumstances and daily chaos. But having a clear plan and genuinely committing to its execution are essential to moving forward each week, will help you to easily say "no” to additional request during the week, and will assist you in being far more productive than you would be if operating on crisis management each day.

To sign up for your free membership on NCFDD and start accessing all of the resources it has to offer, click here for more instructions.

To watch the full webinar on the Sunday Meeting, click here.