Writing Tips for Your MLS Application

See our most recent writing tips for your application to Rice University's Master of Liberal Studies program.

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One of the goals of the Master of Liberal Studies program is to develop strong researchers, writers, and critical thinkers. The best way for our admissions committee to determine if an applicant can be successful in these areas is to require a writing sample. Applicants are asked to prepare a 5-6 page essay based on one of three prompts provided in the application. We understand that it may have been a while since you wrote your last academic paper, so here are some helpful tips from the Master of Liberal Studies team for creating great essays that express your unique voice. You don’t need to follow our guide to the letter. Receive access to tips that may assist in your process by filling out the form below.

Unlock Tips to a Successful Essay

  1. Read questions and instructions carefully.
    Identify task words that indicate what the essay should accomplish (discuss, explain, compare). Highlight subject words (the motivations of King Lear, the causes of the Civil War) and any limiting words (before the 17th century, Chapters 1-10).

  2. Research topics using appropriate sources.
    Choose relevant, reputable, accessible sources. Take notes in your own words and write down useful quotes. Be sure to document sources for later use of quotes, footnotes, etc.

  3. Brainstorm response ideas.
    Write down relevant points, evidence or quotes that come to mind. Consider mind-mapping to stimulate lateral thinking.

  4. Develop a strong thesis statement (idea/argument).
    Your thesis is the backbone of your essay, so it should be focused and clear while reflecting the depth of the question. Keep in mind that you will refer to the thesis throughout your essay: in the introduction, in the body text and in the conclusion, to demonstrate that it has been proven.

  5. Create an outline.
    Order ideas in a logical sequence and make sure that each point is relevant to the question. After you’ve written your plan, it should be clear where the essay is going.

  6. Write the introduction.
    Use the introduction to open the discussion and engage the reader. Introduce the thesis, indicate how questions will be answered and name any texts that will be discussed.

  7. Write the main body of the essay.
    Give each point a new paragraph and use words or phrases at the start of each paragraph that link it to the previous paragraph (e.g., however, in addition, nevertheless). Start each paragraph with a topic sentence that clearly links the paragraph to the rest of the essay. Throughout the body text, provide supporting evidence for each point and express the thesis in different ways, if possible, to emphasize how the question is being addressed.

  8. Write the conclusion.
    Summarize the main ideas and demonstrate how you have proven your thesis. Finish with an interesting or thought-provoking—but relevant—comment.

  9. Edit the draft.
    Delete sections that are weak or less relevant and adjust vocabulary to strengthen expression. Check spelling, punctuation and grammar.

  10. Final touches.
    Add any required or recommended footnotes or bibliography and re-check spelling, punctuation and grammar. Be sure to submit your essay and all other application materials before the deadline.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Master of Liberal Studies program and hope you find these writing tips helpful. Good luck!

Learn More

Are you interested in further exploring Rice University's Master of Liberal Studies degree program? Attend one of our online information sessions. You are always welcome to connect with a member of the MLS team directly by emailing mls@rice.edu.

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Rice University Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies - MS-550
P.O. BOX 1892
Houston, TX 77251-1892


Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies - MS-550
Anderson-Clarke Center
Rice University
6100 Main Street
Houston, TX 77005