Because proposal and report writing are integral parts of job assignments in many natural resource fields, the masters project plays an important role in professional education. The proposal and final report must be of professional quality in their finished form. The student and the adviser should work closely together to assure that the student receives the greatest benefit from this aspect of the School's professional degree programs.

The proposal and final report should be well written; errors in spelling, grammar and typing are not acceptable. The student will be responsible for the accuracy of both the proposal and final report in content, format, grammar, style of writing, and typing. The adviser will approve your work based on a critical assessment of content, format and technical quality.

Your adviser may provide advice on presentation, but should not be expected to serve as a copy editor. Content must be revised and errors must be corrected before the proposal is signed by the adviser. The corrected and signed proposal must be submitted to the Office of Student Services before the deadline indicated.


Nicholas School Communications Studio

The Nicholas School Communications Studio is a writing resource for environmental professionals to work toward the improvement of written communications. The studio offers one-on-one consultations, information on proper methods of citation, and communication trainings. For more info, click here.

Duke Writing Studio

All Nicholas School professional students have access to the writing consultants in the Duke Writing Studio. The consultants are trained to work with both native and non-native English speakers. The Writing Studio might be particularly useful for those international students who placed out of writing courses, but could use some help in refining their writing to more closely approximate a Western academic writing style. International graduate students can schedule advance appointments at the Writing Studio with ESL-trained tutors to work through drafts of proposals, dissertations, journal articles, and other writing projects. The Writing Studio now also offers e-tutoring, but they do suggest that the first appointment be face-to-face. To sign up for writing appointments, use the online sign-in procedure on the Writing Studio Web site.

Additional Editing Resources

Students who require more sustained editing help than can be provided by the consultations arranged by the Nicholas School will need to pay an editor themselves. The following editors have connections or previously worked with the Nicholas School:


Purdue Online Writing Lab

Writing Guides:

Other Writing Resources

  1. UNC Writing Center Help for Hire board: This is a long list of freelance editors in the Triangle area. These postings aren’t affiliated with or endorsed by The UNC Writing Center. Students must make payment arrangements independently.
  2. ServiceScape provides freelance editing help for hire. Editors are categorized by specialty (i.e., academic writing, business writing, writing for job applications, etc.).  Nicholas students can access the site and make payment arrangements individually.

English as a Second Language (ESL)

  1. Duke Writing Studio ESL Resources (grammar help, dictionaries, vocabulary)
  2. Purdue Online Writing Lab (academic writing plagiarism, writing for international audiences, and more)
  3. Duke English for International Students Program (oral communication and academic writing for graduate ESL students)
  4. International House ESL Resources
  5. Durham Tech Free ESL Classes

Avoiding Plagiarism in American Academic Writing

  • Develop a topic based on what has already been said and written -- BUT -- Write something new and original
  • Rely on experts' and authorities' opinions -- BUT -- Improve upon and/or disagree with those same opinions
  • Give credit to previous researchers -- BUT -- Make your own significant contribution
  • Improve your English to fit into a discourse community by building upon what you hear and read     BUT     Use your own words and your own voice

Source: Purdue OWL


Many good references are available both in the Perkins Library and the University bookstore to assist the writer with matters of format and style. The following are particularly useful:

  • W. Strunk and E. B. White. The Elements of Style. Macmillan Co., New York. (Available in paperback,an invaluable personal reference for matters of concise writing and grammar. It is easily readable.)
  • Kate L. Turabian. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL. (Also a paperback, this is an indispensable addition to the student's personal library.)
  • Council of Biology Editors Style Manual. American Institute of Biological Sciences, Arlington, VA. (Particularly good for arranging content of scientific papers, use of terms and abbreviations in some fields of study.)
  • The Chicago Manual of Style. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL. (Good sections on citing all types of references in both the sciences and the humanities.)
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