Instructor: Judith A. Swan, Ph.D.

Associate Director for Writing in Science and Engineering

Princeton University

Effective writers succeed by developing two central understandings: 1) a deep and accurate understanding of their readers, and 2) a detailed awareness of how language affects their readers’ process of interpretation. But most scientists learn scientific writing by trial and error, submitting drafts for rejection until eventually arriving at an acceptable document.

These three half-day workshops are designed to bring the interactions between readers and writers of science into sharp focus. In each session, we take apart examples of scientific writing -- including sentences, figures and documents -- to explore how readers work with language. We then use these insights into readers’ expectations to generate principles for effective writing and apply them to revision. Although each workshop is self-contained, participants taking all three will learn a comprehensive methodology for analyzing scientific writing, which can be used to produce clearer, more concise, and more persuasive scientific documents.

These three half-day workshops are designed to bring the interactions between readers and writers of science into sharp focus. In each session, we take apart examples of scientific writing -- including sentences, figures and documents -- to explore how readers work with language. We then use these insights into readers’ expectations to generate principles for effective writing and apply them to revision. Although each workshop is self-contained, participants taking all three will learn a comprehensive methodology for analyzing scientific writing, which can be used to produce clearer, more concise, and more persuasive scientific documents.

Workshop I: Making Sense in Science: Clarity, Cohesion, and Coherence

June 15, 2010; 9:00 am-12:30 pm

This first workshop examines how readers assemble isolated pieces of information into a coherent understanding. Through analysis of readers’ expectations at the sentence level, we develop explicit principles for organizing the flow of information so that it better enable readers to interpret the science.

Workshop II: Making Points in Science: Figures and Paragraphs as Arguments

June 15, 1:30-5:00 pm

In this workshop, we examine the two parallel accounts of the experiment presented in the figures and the paragraphs. We discuss how structure of these two parallel accounts of an experiment shapes interpretation and develop guidelines for evaluating both visuals and paragraphs. We also look at how these two accounts of the research, at their best, move back and forth to produce tightly reasoned arguments grounded rigorously by evidence.

Workshop III: Persuading in Science: Effective Proposals

June 16, 9:00 am-12:30 pm

In this final workshop, we focus our attention on challenges involved in writing a persuasive proposal. Not only must the proposal describe the promise of the research, it must enumerate its problems and potential pitfalls. How can writers succeed in this balancing act? We begin by understanding readers’ expectations, identifying the pieces of information readers need to see in the proposal and why they need them. We then explore how the location of information can support or undermine the author’s case. We end by working hands-on with the structural cues that instruct readers on how much emphasis to assign to competing claims.
Topic revision: r1 - 15 Apr 2010, SvetlanaEden
 

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