– They are here because nobody teaches them how to write, says workshop instructor Dan Soule about the workshop on scientific writing, tailor-made for young researchers at Soria Moria Hotel in Oslo.
His aim is to help the participants develop a vocabulary to describe good writing, and during lectures, discussions and writing sessions, he illustrates how to develop writing muscles and find good strategies for writing as a PhD-student.
Writing requires discipline
– I’m here because I have realized that writing is hard, and that I need input on how to organize my writing process, says PhD-student Marte Kierulf Åm.
It is only halfway through the course, but Åm can already recognize benefits from the workshop.
– I’ve learned that writing requires discipline, and how to organize a large writing project such as a research article, she says.
Åm and fellow PhD-student Silje Skeide Fuglerud work in the project called Double Intraperitoneal Artificial Pancreas. The team develops new technology to control blood glucose levels in diabetes patients.
Fuglerud uses the workshop to write an article about a novel method to measure blood glucose, and Åm writes about using the hormone glucagon to increase blood sugar levels in animals.
Marte Kierulf Åm (left) has a background as a veterinarian, instructor Dan Soule has a PhD in English and linguistics, and Silje Skeide Fuglerud is an engineer. Now, they are expert writers. Photo: Liv E. Falkenberg.
Motivation to write
Both PhD-students agree that it is beneficial to work with their own scientific articles during the workshop. Soule has read parts of the students’ drafts before they arrived, and offers one-to-one feedback with each participant during the workshop.
Fulgerud and Soule discuss scientific writing. Photo: Liv E. Falkenberg.
The aim is that the participants will leave the workshop full of ideas and new energy to write. The two PhD-students agree that the workshop provides knowledge and inspiration even for those who have participated at similar workshops before.
– I’ve re-discovered my motivation for writing. When I get back to Trondheim, I will set aside time in my calendar to write, says Fuglerud.
There is no secret
Although the workshop provides a number of strategies and tools for becoming a better writing, the biggest changes will happen when the participants get back to their offices and keep writing.
20 eager PhD-students gathered to become writers, expertly guided by instructor Dan Soule. Photo: Liv E. Falkenberg.
The workshop is organized annually by the Digital Life Norway Research School together with the Norwegian Research School in Neuroscience.
– If you want to get good at something, there is no secret. It’s practice. And lots of failure, concludes Soule.
Here are two useful writing tips from the workshop:
A. Divide the writing process into discrete steps:
- Planning and prewriting
- Freewriting without being too critical
- Edit for structure and clarity
- Edit for spelling and grammar
B. Use a weekly 15-minute writing exercise to maintain your writing muscles.
- Write about what you have been reading, doing and thinking about since you wrote last, and do your best to try to connect the different elements.
- Have you read something that will influence your experiments?
- Have you gotten results that change how you think about your project?