Exercises (10% of Final Grade)

Exercise 1

In one-to-two pages, describe your motivation for taking this workshop. Discuss the academic writing tasks that you have encountered or expect to encounter as a student and in your professional life. Discuss any instruction in academic writing that you have had in the past. Provide details about your strengths and weaknesses both in general writing and in academic English writing. End your short personal statement with a clear statement of your two or three major concrete goals for yourself in 21G.225 / 6 this semester.

Exercise 2

Explore some of the on-line resources listed in the Related Resources section. Choose two and, for each, write a ½-page "review" that provides the answers to the following questions:

  • How did you choose which resources to explore?
  • How well does the resource meet the needs of MIT students?
  • How user-friendly is the resource?
  • How could the content, design and general approach be made more user-friendly?

Exercise 3: Summary of an Article Written for a General Audience

Read the three examples from New York Times Science Section in the Readings and Homework Preparation section, choose one article to summarize and do three steps:

  • Print out that article.
  • On the hard copy, identify (highlight or underline) all the features of the text that show sensitivity to non-specialist readers.
  • Write a ½-page analysis of the author's strategy.

Be sure to provide a full citation of the article you choose. Use the author's last name as you explain her / his strategy.

Exercise 4

Starting with the first sentence, analyze the use of verbs in the Introduction section of your model paper. Choose a passage of 100 words and:

  • Identify each verb form that the author uses.
  • Explain why it is the best choice.

Hand in a copy of the model paper Introduction with your analysis.

Exercise 5

Starting with the first sentence, analyze the use of articles in the abstract of your model paper. Explain the author's article use (the, a, an or zero article) with each noun in the abstract, up to five lines of text.

Formal Paper 1: Writing for a General Audience (10% of Final Grade)

Increasingly, scientists and engineers need to educate the public about the importance of their research and justify the funding they receive. Consider the examples of writing for this purpose that you have read and that we have discussed in class. How can you "deconstruct" your highly specialized research focus to demonstrate and explain its broader importance in your field and in life?

Write a short article (500 words) suitable for non-specialist readers of the New York Times or the Ashdown Newsletter Writing Contest. Remember: The context, content, style and tone must be appropriate for the intended audience.

Formal Paper 2: Writing Correspondence (10% of Final Grade)

Writing about our research is a central task in academic and professional life. Even when we are not writing reports and papers for publication, we must frequently share research information in different forms, e.g., graphic representations of data or in other genres such as memos (e-mail or hard copy) or presentations. (Remember: Letters and memos are single-spaced.) For this assignment, you have the choice to write one of the following:

  • Two-page technical memo (hard copy)
  • Letter applying for a post-doctorate fellowship
  • Cover letter suitable for a faculty or research position in a professional environment

Please attach the ad / job description if you choose to write a cover letter.

Formal Paper 3: Introducing Material (10% of Final Grade)

As we have discussed in class, abstracts and introductions are common features of professional documents in science and engineering. However, the building blocks for these sections vary depending on the discipline and the genre (the document's key purpose and form).

Write an abstract (150–250 words) and an introduction (two-three pages) suitable for a technical report, proposal, research paper or short thesis in your discipline. Include a document title and a reference section.

Note: Formal papers 1, 2, and 3 will require revisions. If you receive a grade of "C" or lower on any of these, you are encouraged to submit a third draft. Rewrites are due the next class. Your new grade will be a combination of the original grade and the grade received for the third submitted draft.

Final Paper (25% of Final Grade)

This final assignment provides the chance to combine what you have learned, practiced and written this semester to produce a final formal document that can be used in a context outside of 21G.225 / 6.

The project can be one of the following:

  • New UROP report or other substantial lab report on current / recent research
  • Literature review on an anticipated research topic
  • Review or research paper you are writing for another course this semester
  • Review or research paper for publication
  • Master's or Ph.D. thesis proposal
  • Part of an undergraduate thesis or a Master's or Ph.D. thesis to be submitted in the future

Other projects may be approved with sufficient advance notice. See the instructor if you are having trouble anticipating a topic for the final project. Do not wait until the end of the semester!

The final paper must be 15 to 20-pages long. A section may consist of writing you have done for class during the semester, but the paper must include at least 50% new material. The paper must incorporate headings, figures, tables, equations and citations appropriately into the text according to the conventions in your discipline (e.g., those shown in your model paper).

There is no opportunity to rewrite the final paper. However, each of you will have at least one scheduled appointment with the instructor for feedback on your final paper in progress.