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. 

The course, titled “Science Writing: Making Texts Clear and Concise,” is a series of six 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 workshops, text examples will come directly from participants’ own writing. As a participant, you will be asked to submit writing samples in advance.

Upcoming Workshops

Session 1: NSF Writing Workshop for 1st and 2nd Year MS & PhD Students – Sold Out
Workshop times/dates: 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., Thursdays, Sept. 18 - Oct. 23 (six weeks). Bring your lunch; dessert provided!

Location: Hudson 212

Are you planning to submit a proposal for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program? The Pratt School is offering a six-week writing workshop this fall (1.5 hrs/wk) with a special focus on writing NSF GRFP proposals.

Over six weeks, you will draft, critique, revise, and polish proposals. You will learn concrete strategies for making your writing as clear and cohesive as possible, from individual sentences to paragraphs to overall organization.

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.

Overview
Week 1: What are NSF reviewers looking for?
Panel discussion/Q&A with faculty who have served on NSF GRFP review committees and students who have submitted successful proposals

Week 2: Writing Strategies: Clarity
Getting actions out of nouns and into verbs, avoiding strings of prepositional phrases, keeping verbs near their subjects, using passive voice with intent

Week 3: Writing Strategies: Clarity (cont.) and Conciseness
Conveying content efficiently and economically, recognizing run-ons, shedding unnecessary words and phrases

Week 4: Writing Strategies: Cohesion
Controlling the flow of information from one sentence to the next: linking old and new information, ordering information within and between sentences, understanding sentence topic and stress, providing roadmaps and signposts for readers (introductions, topic sentences, transitional words and phrases)

Weeks 5-6: Workshopping Proposal Drafts
Small and large group discussions and peer editing to provide feedback on proposal drafts, with a focus on clarity, conciseness, cohesion, and revision. To supplement feedback received in the workshops, students should also plan to solicit feedback from their advisors and from a tutor at the Duke Writing Studio.

Session 2: Science Writing: Making Texts Clear and Concise – Open to all Pratt MS and PhD Students
Dates: 10/30, 11/6, 11/13, 11/20, 12/4
Time: 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. (bring your lunch, dessert provided)
Location: Hudson 212
 
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.
 
The course instructor is Elizabeth Paley, who led academic writing workshops for six years before branching out on a freelance basis. With an MS in Astronomy and a PhD in Music Theory, she has experience writing in both the sciences and the humanities. Her publications appear 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.