This page is for sharing an ongoing list of links and resources — especially with my students — about effective academic writing.
Effective Academic Writing: General
- F Words of Effective Academic Writing: In this blog entry, I share a few tips for writing effectively — in most academic contexts. They are framing, foregrounding, focus, flow, finishing, formatting, and fun.
- “Bad Writers” Are Welcome!: In this blog entry, I tell a story and discuss how good writing doesn’t necessarily come from having a good command over the language and writing skills before students enter a writing class. It comes from… [uhm, the blog entry is worth reading 🙂 ]
- Translating Success: Many international students struggle not just because their English language is week but because they are learning the terms and concepts, assumptions and expectations, and the “hidden rules” of the game in the new academic culture, discipline, and level. Here is a project I facilitate where international students have shared very inspiring stories of their struggle and success (along with some helpful advice by more experienced scholars and experts).
- Helping International Students: In this two part blog post written for the Writing Program website, I have described how writing teachers can facilitate the academic transition of international students.
- [want to suggest other resource?]
Advanced Writing in the Disciplines and Science Communication
- Science Communicators and Scientist Communicators: It used to be that scientists could afford to just do just their primary work of research and scholarship: journalists at “science desks” would translate their complex research/ideas in the language of the public. But economic crisis affecting journalism, availability of new mediums, and other reasons present today’s scientists with the challenge/opportunity to communicate their ideas to the general public themselves. The chapter starting at page 11 of this report is one of my favorite readings in this area– it’s really worth reading.
- Writing Well: Scientifically and Rhetorically: The 12th chapter of Charles Bazerman’s book Shaping Written Knowledge is also worth reading on the subject of scientific writing. It is little complex but for anyone interested in the broader discussion about scientific discourse–its history/tradition and rhetorical issues–it is a great piece.
- Ways of Knowing, Doing, and Writing: Although it is addressed to teachers and program administrators of writing studies, but Michael Carter’s article “Ways of Knowing, Doing, and Writing in the Disciplines” is also worth the time because it shows anyone doing advanced writing in the disciplines a very useful way of understanding the big picture where writing is done. Carter describes the relationship between knowledge, activity, and writing through the lens of genre studies.
- Metacommentary moves: Here’s a list of expressions about how to tell the readers what we’re trying to “do” through our writing: metacommentary moves can be helpful.
- Science communication, science literacy, and public support: Here is a great lecture about the relationship between scientific research, funding/public support, and how the research is understood. It’s not about writing, but provides a great background.
- Can numbers lie?: Scientists often write without the awareness that numbers need to be interpreted carefully (otherwise numbers will “lie”), that rhetorical skills are involved and necessary even when working with “pure” numbers (facts and figures). Here are six ways numbers can lie to us.
- Using simple language when appropriate: Here’s a very funny and thought-provoking scene from a Bollywood movie where a student teaches his science teacher the importance of keeping it simple.
- Using parallel structures: One of the typical styles of English (esp. US English) is the use of parallel syntax. For nonnative users of English, here’s one very quick exercise worth doing.
- Avoiding noun strings: One of the most common features of scientific writing that quickly goes too far among many scientists is the use of “noun strings.” Here is an exercise for practicing how to avoid structures like “breeder reactor spent fuel shipping container.” (Possible answer: “container for shipping spent fuel from the breeder reactor.”
- Appropriate and professional style, tone, and language: Scientists don’t write in vacuums but usually write to communicate to people. Here is a great handout on how to make writing ethical and inoffensive to different groups of people. The “worksheet” at the top links to an exercise.
- See more…
1) Cocktail Party Physics
2) Communicating Science
3) Denise Graveline’s Science Blog (Graveline is a former head of public information for AAAS and for the American Chemical Society)
4) Discover, Dotearth, Explaining Research (produced by longtime science writer Dennis Meredith to accompany his 2010 book, Explaining Research)
5) Fast Company Ethonomics
6) Green, on New York Times
7) Live Science
8) MIT Tech Review
9) PLoS Blogs
11) Public Communication of Science and Technology
12) SciDev.net, Communicating Science: (science journalism for the developing world)
13) Science Online
14) Science Progress Action
15) Scientific American
16) World Federation of Science Journalists (primary audience is science journalists in developing countries)
Writing in Business and Other Professions
- [working] — resumes, reports, proposals, blogfolios, types of letters, memos, cover letters, informational interviewing, you attitude and positive emphasis, analyzing audiences, cross-cultural communication….
College Composition: First Year Writing
- [working] — reading assignment prompts analytically, storytelling versus reflection (generating theory) for literacy narrative essays, logical versus ethical argumentation, writing about global issues and using global perspectives, types of rhetorical and other kinds of textual analysis, questions for analyzing texts….