Science Writing Workshops

From grant proposals to peer reviewed publications, writing is a critical career skill for PhD candidates. As part of an ongoing professional development effort focused on doctoral students, Pratt offers a scientific and technical writing course for doctoral students each semester. 

Upcoming Workshops

General Science Writing Workshop:  Making Texts Clear and Concise

Open to Pratt PhD Students only

Fall 2016:

  • Dates:  Tuesdays – Oct 18 and 25, and Nov. 1, 8, and 15
  • Time: 8:30 – 10:00 a.m.
  • Location:  Schiciano Auditorium, Side A, Fitzpatrick Center

Spring 2017:

  • Dates: Tuesdays – Jan. 31 and Feb. 7, 14, 21 and 28
  • Time:  8:30 – 10:00 a.m.
  • Location: Hudson 201

Registration required through DukeHub –

Course Number: Special Topics: Pratt PhD General Science Writing Workshop – EGR 790-02

Description:  You are invited to participate in a professional development class focused on scientific and technical writing. From grant proposals to peer reviewed publications, writing is a critical skill for your career. This workshop is a series of five 1.5-hour workshops designed to help make your writing as clear and strong as possible. Workshop topics will include clarity, conciseness, cohesion, organization, common errors, and “putting it all together” in research proposals and scientific papers. You’ll develop a toolbox of strategies for crafting, evaluating, and revising texts. Throughout the workshop, text examples will come directly from participants’ own writing. As a participant, you will be asked to submit writing samples in advance.

Credit per workshop series: 1

Grading: S/NS

Enrollment limit:  25

 

Full-Day Scientific Writing Workshop

Open to Pratt PhD Students only

  • Date:  Saturday, April 1, 2017
  • Time: 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
  • Location:  TBD

Description:  This workshop will give you concrete strategies for making your science writing as clear and direct as possible. Text examples will come primarily from participants' own writing.
 
Topics will include:

  1. Clarity: Moving actions out of nouns ("nominalizations") and into verbs; avoiding strings of prepositional phrases; keeping verbs near their subjects; using passive voice with intent
  2. Cohesion: Understanding "topic," "stress," and reader expectations; controlling the flow of information within sentences and from one sentence to the next
  3. Conciseness: Conveying meaning efficiently and economically; recognizing run-ons; shedding unnecessary words and phrases
  4. Polishing: Recognizing common grammatical errors and punctuation pitfalls; understanding hard and fast rules versus style choices (e.g., passive/active voice, I/we pronouns)
  5. Organization: mapping organizational plans; drafting text (prewriting, freewriting, describing visuals); evaluating and revising organization; providing roadmaps and signposts for readers (introductions, topic sentences, transitional phrases). 

Preparation:

  1. So that the workshop can address prose that is relevant to participants’ research and writing experiences, you must provide a sample of your own writing when you register. You do not need to write anything new for this, and works-in-progress are welcome. Any science-related prose will do: lab reports, research summaries, grant proposals, abstracts, thesis chapters, job application letters, etc. If possible, provide text that has not been meticulously revised or rewritten by an editor (e.g. your advisor). Provide at least three pages of text; while you are welcome to include figures, tables, and equations, please do not count them as part of the three-page minimum. By providing text, you give tacit permission for excerpts to be discussed during the workshop. Authors will remain anonymous unless they choose to self-identify.
  2. Write an abstract (100-250 words) on any aspect of your current research and bring a printed copy to the workshop; you do not need to provide this text in advance. Not sure how to organize an abstract? Consider abstracts from your preferred journals as models. Abstract advice from a senior editor at Nature can be found here – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/noah-gray/abstract-science_b_1923214.html – but note that abstract styles vary from journal to journal.

 
Registration: Pratt PhD students will receive an email from Sara Faust in January 2017.

Enrollment: Limited to the first 25 to respond to the email invitation.

 

Our Writing Workshop Instructor:

The course instructor is Elizabeth Paley, who led academic writing workshops for six years at the Duke Writing Studio before branching out on a freelance basis; she has taught numerous science-writing workshops at Duke and the University of Freiburg (Germany) since 2010. With an MS in Astronomy and a PhD in Music Theory, she has publications in a variety of venues, including The Astrophysical Journal, Nineteenth-Century Music, and The Chronicle for Higher Education.

To register or for more information, please contact Sara Faust at sfaust@duke.edu