Readings and Homework Preparation

[C] = Caplan, Nigel A. Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers (Michigan Series in English for Academic & Professional Purposes). University of Michigan Press ELT, 2012. ISBN: 9780472035014.

[CA] = ———. “Commentary and Answer Key for Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers.” (PDF) University of Michigan Press ELT, 2012.

[D] = Day, Robert A., and Barbara Gastel. How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper. 7th ed. Greenwood, 2011. ISBN: 9780313391972.

[H] = Hacker, Diana, and Barbara Fister. Research and Documentation in the Electronic Age. 5th ed. Bedford / St. Martin’s, 2010. ISBN: 9780312566722.

1 Intro to 21G.225 / 6 No readings assigned
2 Introduction to professional writing

Grant, Bob. “Right Your Writing: How to Sharpen Your Writing and Your Manuscripts More Engaging.” The Scientist, November 1, 2009.

Griswold, William G. “How to Read an Engineering Research Paper.”

Study your syllabus. Bring questions to class.

Find and bring to class your model paper.

3 Strategy, process & style (1)

[D] Chapter 1: What is Scientific Writing?

[D] Chapter 3: Approaching a Writing Project.

Hanson, Michael J. “Efficient Reading of Papers in Science and Technology.” (PDF)

Rettig, Hillary. “Optimizing Your Writing Process: Write Nonlinearly.” (PDF)

Interested in reading more?

Rockquemore, Kerry Ann, PhD. “Writing Rocks,” The Monday Motivator, National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity.


Strategy, process & style (2)

  • Sentence bounds
  • Coherence
  • Punctuation

[C] Unit 1: An Approach to Academic Written Grammar.

[C] Unit 2: Clause Combination.

[C] Unit 8: Beyond the Sentence.

Study the above; do tasks that have answer keys in [CA]; and bring questions to class.


Writing for the public

[D] Chapter 24: How to Write Opinion (Book Reviews, Editorials, and Letters to the Editor).

[D] Chapter 26: How to Write for the Public.

[D] Chapter 33: Writing Clear Across Cultures and Media.

Bavaria, MD, Joseph E., Jehnagir J. Appoo, MD, Michel S. Makarou, MD, et al. “Endovascular Stent Grafting Versus Open Surgical Repair of Descending Thoracic Aortic Aneurysms in Low-risk Patients: A Multicenter Comparative Trial.” Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery 133, no. 2 (2007): 369-77.

Bhanoo, Sindya N. “New Wearable Sensor Can Collect Data From Sweat,” New York Times, February 1, 2016.

Gorman, James. “The Venus Flytrap, a Plant That Can Count,” New York Times, February 1, 2016.

Delude, Cathryn. “Vascular Disease: Pipe Repair.” Proto, May 3, 2011.

“Mind the Gap: Communicating Science to Diverse Audiences.” (PDF) Science Editor 31, no. 5 (2008): 158.

News Office. “Letter Regarding the First Direct Detection of Gravitational Waves,” MIT News, February 11, 2016.

Reynolds, Gretchen. “Why Runners Get Slower With Age (and How Strength Training May Help),” New York Times, September 9, 2015.

Model Paper - Presenting Complex Information to Non-specialist Audiences

Dyson, Freeman. “The ‘Dramatic Picture’ of Richard Feynman.” The New York Review of Books, July 14, 2011.


Peer workshop (1)

Guidelines for productive peer review

Reynolds, Gretchen. “To Prevent Back Pain, Orthotics Are Out, Exercise Is In,” New York Times, January 27, 2016.

7 E-mail, memos & letters

Fitzgerald, Michael. “How to Write a Memorable Memo.” CIO, October 15, 2005.

Swales, John W., and Christine B. Feak. “Appendix on Email Published in the 2nd Edition of Academic Writing for Graduate Students.” (PDF) University of Michigan Press ELT, 2012.

8 Verb form review (1)

[C] Unit 4: Verb Forms.

Study the above; do tasks that have answer keys in [CA]; and bring questions to class.

Irregular Verb Dictionary,

Stative Verbs List,

9 Verb form review (2) No readings assigned
10 Job letters

[D] Chapter 36: How to Prepare a Curriculum Vitae.

[D] Chapter 38: How to Write a Recommendation Letter and How to Ask For One.

Academic Job Search – Cover Letter, Career Center, University of California – Berkeley.

Action Verbs, Veredus.

Ball, Cheryl E. “Understanding Cover Letters.” Inside Higher Ed, November 4, 2013.

Howard, Philip N. “A Dozen Sentences.” Inside Higher Ed, September 3, 2014.

Korkki, Phyllis. “A Cover Letter is Not Expendable,” New York Times, February 14, 2009.

Loretto, Penny. “How to Write a Cover Letter for a Finance Internship,” The Balance, May 26, 2016.

“MIT Career Development Handbook 2016-2017.” (PDF - 8.9MB)

Interested in reading more?

Graduate School – Statement, Career Center, University of California – Berkeley.


Peer workshop (2)

No readings assigned
12 Writing up research (1): Composition of documents

[D] Chapter 2: Historical Perspectives.

[D] Chapter 4: What is a Scientific Paper?

Roig, Miquel. “26 Guidelines for Avoiding Plagiarism.”

13 Writing up research (2): Source use of sources

[C] Unit 7: Collocation and Corpus Searching.

Study the above; do tasks that have answer keys in [CA]; and bring questions to class.

[D] Chapter 15: How to Cite the References.

[H] Skim.

Fischer, Beth A., and Michael J. Zigmond. “Twenty Steps to Writing a Research Article.”

Loui, Michael C. “Seven Ways to Plagiarize: Handling Real Allegations of Research Misconduct.” Science and Engineering Ethics 8, no. 4 (2002): 529–39.

Newhouse, Margaret. “Transferable Skills.”

Take the quiz:

Harris, Robert A. “The Importance of Using Sources Effectively - Self-Assessment: Rules of Citation Quiz 1.” Chapter 1 in Using Sources Effectively: Strengthening Your Writing and Avoiding Plagiarism. 4th ed. Routledge, 2014. ISBN: 9781936523351.

14 Indefinite / definite article review

[C] Unit 5: The Noun Phrase.

Study the above; do tasks that have answer keys in [CA]; and bring questions to class.

Articles, the Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Articles, Determiners and Quantifiers, the Guide to Grammar and Writing, Capital Community College Foundation.

15 Writing up research (3): Introductory sections

[D] Chapter 9: How to Prepare the Abstract.

[D] Chapter 10: How to Write the Introduction.

[D] Chapter 23: How to Write a Review Paper. “Table 20-1”

Kumar, M. Jagadesh. “Making Your Research Paper Discoverable: Title Plays the Winning Trick.” IETE Technical Review 30, no. 5 (2013): 361–63.

 Rew, Lois J. “Table 20-1: Types and Characteristics of Summaries.” In Introduction to Technical Writing: Process & Practice. 2nd edition. St. Martin’s Press, 1993. ISBN: 9780312067816.

Taylor, Dena. “The Literature Review: A Few Tips On Conducting It,” Health Sciences Writing Centre, University of Toronto.

Sample journal abstract (informative)

Prather, Jonathan F., Susan Peters, Stephen Nowicki, et al. “Precise Auditory-Vocal Mirroring in Neurons for Learned Vocal Communication.” Nature 451 (2008): 305-10.

Sample journal abstract (descriptive)

Banister, David, and Robin Hickman. “How to Design a More Sustainable and Fairer Built Environment: Transport and Communications.” IEE Proceedings - Intelligent Transport Systems 153, no. 4 (2007): 276-91.

The craft of writing effective abstracts

Reis, Ricardo. “Where is the Natural Rate? Rational Policy Mistakes and Persistent Deviations of Inflation from Target.” The BE Journal of Macroeconomics 3, no. 1 (2003).

Su, Guolong. “Polynomial Decomposition Algorithims in Signal Processing.” (PDF) Master Thesis, June 2013.

Task 1

Examine these abstracts and answer the following questions.

Is each a clear example of specific type of abstract? Which kind?
How closely does each abstract conform to conventional guidelines/readers’ expectations?
Can you easily locate

  • The objectives of the research?
  • The key words identifying the methods used?
  • The results of the research?
  • The conclusions drawn from the results?
  • What could you do to improve each abstract?

Task 2

Skim each of these abstracts and cross out all the language that describes the research prject, in particular. The resulting phrases are “shared language’ and can be incorporated into your own writing without fear of plagiarism.

Model EECS thesis abstract

Rezavi, Mohsen. “Long-distance Quantum Communication with Neutral Atoms.” Core.

Task 1

Follow Driscoll’s guidelines (see Study Materials) as you analyze the model abstract. How closely does the EECS abstract conform the guidelines?

Task 2

Find out whether these guidelines are suitable for writing a thesis abstract in your discipline. If not, consult with colleagues in your department and create preparation guidelines that you will be able to use when you are writing up your thesis/dissertation.

16 Writing up research (4): Proposals, part I

[D] Chapter 37: How to Prepare Grant Proposals and Progress Reports.

Matthews, Mark. “Tips for a Winning Research Proposal.” Prism, September 2014.

National Science Foundation Grant Proposal Guide, January 2016, National Science Foundation.

Walters, Mary W. “Know Your Audience.” Inside Higher Ed, January 29, 2010.

17 Peer workshop (3) No readings assigned

Writing up research (4): Proposals, part II

No readings assigned
19 Writing up research (5): Results, discussions, & conclusions

[C] Unit 6: Hedging, Boosting, and Positioning.

Study the above; do tasks that have answer keys in [CA]; and bring questions to class.

[D] Chapter 11: How to Write the Materials and Methods Section.

[D] Chapter 12: How to Write the Results.

[D] Chapter 13: How to Write the Discussion.

Gillen, Christopher. “The Data Suggest: Writing in the Sciences.” Chapter 13 in They Say, I Saw: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. 2nd ed. Edited by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein. W. W. Norton & Company, 2009. ISBN: 9780393933611.


Frodesen, Jan, and Margi Wald. “Writing about Increases and Decreases.” Chapter 2 in Exploring Options in Academic Writing: Effective Vocabulary and Grammar Use. University of Michigan Press ELT, 2016. ISBN: 9780472034260.

20 Relative clause review

[C] Unit 3: Embedded, Noun, and Complement Clauses.

Study the above; do tasks that have answer keys in [CA]; and bring questions to class.


Writing up research (6): Publishing & professionalism

[D] Chapter 5: Ethics in Scientific Publishing.

[D] Chapter 6: Where to Submit Your Manuscript.

[D] Chapter 14: How to State the Acknowledgements

[D] Chapter 19: Rights and Permissions.

[D] Chapter 20: How to Submit the Manuscript.

[D] Chapter 21: The Review Process (How to Deal with Editors).

[D] Chapter 22: The Publishing Process (How to Deal with Proofs).

[D] Chapter 40: How to Provide Peer Review.

Grens, Kerry. “Self Correction: What to Do When You Realize Your Publication Is Fatally Flawed.” The Scientist, December 1, 2015.

Grove, Jack. “Questioning the ‘Myth’ of Linguistic Bias.” Inside Higher Ed, March 25, 2016.

Reis, Joanne B., and Carl G. Leukefeld. “Contending with Reviewers’ Comments.” Chapter 2 in The Research Funding Guidebook: Getting It, Managing It, & Renewing It. SAGE Publications Incorporation, 1997. ISBN: 9780761902317.

Responding to Peer Review,

Whitesides, George M. “Whitesides’ Group: Writing a Paper.” Advanced Materials 16, no. 15 (2004): 1375–77.

To prepare for class discussion of professionalism, read the following articles and keep notes on supporting points and counter arguments

Bertamini, Marco, and Marcus R. Munafò. “The Perils of ‘Bite Size’ Science,” New York Times, January 28, 2012.

Lin, Thomas. “Cracking Open the Scientific Process,” New York Times, January 16, 2012.

Price, Richard. “Peer Review Needs to Expand So That More Scientists are Reviewing Papers,” The Guardian, October 23, 2013.

Yandell, Kate. “Bonding in the Lab: How to Make Your Lab Less Like a Factory and More Like a Family.” The Scientist, October 1, 2013.

22 Conference papers & poster sessions

[D] Chapter 5: How to Present a Paper Orally.

Angelini, Alessandro. “Art of the Conference Paper.” Inside Higher Ed, November 3, 2010.

Connor, Carol Waite. “The Poster Session: A Guide for Preparation.” (PDF)

Interested in learning more about scientific presentations?

Alley, Michael. "The Craft of Scientific Presentations: Critical Steps to Succeed and Critical Errors to Avoid.” (PDF - 3.0MB) Springer, 2002. ISBN: 9780387955551.

Interested in reading more on posters?

Zielinska, Edyta. “Poster Perfect: How to Drive Home Your Science with a Visually Pleasing Poster.” The Scientist, September 1, 2011.

23 and 24 Individual consultations

Review all of your graded quizzes, exercises, formal paper drafts and memos from the semester. Note down any patterns you notice and conclusions you can draw about your writing.

In your individual consultations, be prepared to discuss your questions, problems, and goals for your final paper.

25 Two-minute research presentations

Flaherty, Colleen. “Snapshot Dissertation.” Inside Higher Ed, February 22, 2013.

From Conference Paper to Conference Talk: Nano-presentations


MIT Student Chris Moses Describes his Research, brightcove.

Interested in seeing more “bite-size” thesis presentations?

Winning 3MT Presentations from Around the Globe.” 3MT - Three Minute Thesis, University of Queensland.

26 Course overview No readings assigned

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2016