MET workshops

Running pre-conference workshops on writing effective scientific articles: course design, presentation and marketing issues

Margaret Cargill, Adelaide, Australia

Language professionals who work with scientific manuscripts are often acutely aware of issues that can be complex to address on the page but could (and preferably should) have been dealt with at an earlier stage of the writing process. Examples include features above the sentence level, such as audience awareness in choice of information order and level of detail and explicit description of objectives and justifications. One way to try and address these problems, and thereby improve the quality of manuscripts in the early stages, is to alert scientist authors to the problems. This can be done by running training to help them write better initial drafts.

A genre-based approach (described in Burgess and Cargill [2013]) has been shown to be effective for running workshops of this type in contexts including research groups, university departments and scientific symposia or other conferences. In the context of a symposium or conference, an alternative to a traditional writing course is a short workshop of one day (or less) run pre- or post-conference or included within the program. This educational setting offers a new avenue of interesting work for those with first-hand knowledge of manuscripts and publishing processes. However, gaining access to such settings can be challenging for language professionals, as can creating a favourable business context for encouraging uptake of our offers to contribute in this way. Moving towards this type of work requires attention to workshop design, teaching approach, and marketing strategies.

This METM15 workshop will provide an opportunity to investigate the usefulness and marketability of this type of short, targeted workshop for contexts relevant to the participants.

Purpose: To familiarise participants with a specific instance of a workshop based on genre analysis and corpus linguistics – a short, targeted workshop delivered in association with a scientific conference or meeting. To provide practice in planning an adaptation of this format for specific contexts relevant to each participant. To develop marketing-based strategies to sell the resulting workshop.

Description/Structure: We will first consider the content I usually include in a 1-day workshop on this topic, the presentation approach and tasks I use, and my rationale for the selection. Participants will then identify specific contexts they know or can imagine, relevant to their own work lives, where this type of workshop could be applicable, even if the duration is shorter or longer. In small groups they will select content and approaches (either from those presented earlier, or alternatives/additions) appropriate to their contexts and the workshop length they propose as being practicable, and note their reasons for selections. The next part of the workshop will focus on identifying a strategy for promoting and marketing the workshops just designed. To do this participants will aim to put themselves in the position of their particular ‘market’ – the relevant manager for the chosen context – and answer, from their market’s perspective,  the question “What’s in it for me?” Based on the answers, they will draft and work on selling points to be incorporated in promotional material, either oral or written. Finally, we will focus briefly on designing end-of-workshop feedback mechanisms that capture data of interest to our clients and potentially likely to lead to repeat business.

Who should attend? Anyone interested in investigating the potential usefulness of a short workshop on this topic targeted to scientist authors from a particular range of disciplines. Previous experience in presenting training workshops is not necessary.

Outcome skills: Participants will gain an enhanced understanding of a range of practical considerations relevant to planning, marketing and delivery of short training workshops on the writing of effective scientific articles based on genre analysis and corpus linguistics approaches.

Pre-meeting information: It would be helpful for participants to read the Burgess and Cargill (2013) chapter:
Burgess, S., & Cargill, M. (2013). Using genre analysis and corpus linguistics to teach research article writing. In V. Matarese (Ed.), Supporting research writing: Roles and challenges in multilingual settings (pp. 55-71). Cambridge UK: Woodhead Publishing.

MET members can buy this book at a discounted rate, but if a copy is unavailable, write to the authors for a self-archived version of the pre-publication manuscript.

About the facilitator: Margaret Cargill runs a small consultancy business in Adelaide, Australia called ‘SciWriting: Communicating science effectively in English’, specialising in training, and holds an adjunct senior lectureship in the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine at the University of Adelaide. She began as a teacher of German and French in Australian high schools, has worked in the USA, Switzerland and Tonga (South Pacific), and earned a doctorate in Education in 2011 with a thesis on collaborative work between science and language experts. Her scientific writing and train-the-trainer workshops are given in Australia and Asia, notably China and Indonesia.