Excellence in the Communication of Science

Training in Scientific Writing

The DIPP provides its students with extensive training in scientific writing. Since 2013, DIPP has worked with scientific writing consultant Iain Patten to establish a multilevel training program that equips all students with core skills in scientific writing and provides advanced training in writing for a variety of different audiences. We believe that this exciting program makes DIPP a reference point for the training not only of world-class scientists but also of excellent communicators of science.

Training in scientific writing (infographic)
Training in scientific writing: the three levels of the program

The program has three levels. At the beginning of their studies, all PhD students participate in a 4-day workshop that explores the main writing challenges they will face during their PhD studies. In addition, they receive training in cross-disciplinary communication to support their work in Dresden’s lively and diverse research environment. In subsequent years, smaller groups of students can apply for additional training in specific areas of writing according to their interest and needs. This combination of compulsory foundation-level training and optional support in areas that are important for the completion of graduate studies and the transition to postdoctoral work plays an important role in supporting the development of DIPP students.

For students seeking to achieve the highest standards in their future careers core training is offered in writing for publication. Subsequently, a small number of highly selected students are given the opportunity to participate in a manuscript writing masterclass in which they are given extensive one-to-one guidance on developing their own manuscript for publication. Such an opportunity is rarely offered to PhD students, and puts participants at a significant advantage as they make the transition to postdoctoral research.

Foundation-Level Training – Preparing the Ground

Laying the foundations for effective writing

This workshop introduces all DIPP students to the core writing skills that will be required in their graduate studies and beyond. The workshop explores ways of understanding the process of writing before looking at the primary challenge of achieving clarity when presenting complex scientific information. Emphasis is placed on applying common principles to different types of writing while also recognising the specific requirements of each. Throughout the workshop, students therefore consider how to apply the principles they are learning to the main writing tasks that will be required of them during their studies, such as progress reports, conference abstracts, theses, and scientific publications. In addition, the workshop helps students to develop their skills in critical scientific thinking by highlighting how aspects of the writing process can be used to enhance the way we approach scientific research. Thus, while using writing as a focus, the training offered has a much wider impact on the development of students as they enter their graduate studies.

Cross-disciplinary communication

A key feature of the DIPP is its strongly interdisciplinary research base. Successful interdisciplinary research depends on the ability of people from different scientific disciplines to agree common objectives and strategies to achieve them. Having done so, they must also be able to discuss the significance of their results and find ways of communicating them to similarly diverse audiences. Interdisciplinary researchers must therefore find ways of bridging gaps in understanding by taking into account the background, interests, assumptions and prejudices of the people they are trying to communicate with. This workshop introduces key issues faced by researchers working across disciplines and explores strategies to avoid or resolve them:

  1. Communicating effectively with colleagues from different disciplines to achieve a common research goal—the importance of finding a common language.
  2. Presenting your work effectively to different scientific audiences—recognising the difference between what interests us and what interests them.
  3. Adapting the presentation of your work according to the purposes of the communication (e.g. in funding proposals, research articles, and oral presentations)—maximising the likelihood of achieving our goals.
  4. Making your work understandable to wider audiences—the impact of assumptions, agendas, and scientific literacy on how our work is perceived.

Specialist Topics – Supporting Student Development

Getting to grips with your thesis

The PhD thesis is a rite of passage towards a scientific career, yet it is a writing challenge unlike any other that students will experience in their future careers. For many students, a lack of clarity about how to approach this task leads to an unnecessarily long and frustrating experience. In this workshop, students specifically address how to apply core principles in effective writing to the challenge of preparing their thesis. The workshop is appropriate for late-stage PhD students who are beginning to work actively on their thesis. In addition to lectures and exercises designed to highlight effective approaches to writing a PhD thesis, all participants discuss their work in groups and are supported to identify concrete solutions to the specific challenges they face. The workshop therefore helps to kick start the process and give students the tools and confidence to move forward productively with their thesis.

Writing fellowship proposals

Preparing to write a funding proposal for the first time can be daunting. To be successful, you must demonstrate your potential to make an independent contribution to your field. This requires a confident writing style in which applicants show their experience and credentials in a way that emphasises their ability to do the proposed work. Yet at the same time, the focus must be maintained on the relevance of the work itself. Achieving this delicate balance is further complicated by the need to capture the attention of reviewers who may read hundreds of applications in a variety of different formats. In this workshop, participants will learn how to engage reviewers and convey important information in a variety of ways to maximise the potential of their applications. They will consider the similarities and differences between writing fellowship proposals and other types of writing, such as research articles, and they will learn how to develop resources that can be adapted to the requirements of each. The workshop ends by exploring how key principles can be applied to other types of funding application, thereby providing a foundation in an important skill that will be relevant throughout participants’ careers.

Advanced Training in Scientific Writing – Encouraging Excellence

Writing for publication

The primary measure of your progress as a scientist is your publication output. To achieve the highest standards, it is not enough to obtain interesting results—you must also ensure that they are published in an appropriate journal. Competition to publish in high-impact journals, however, is fierce. It is therefore essential that early career researchers understand how to maximize their chances of success and negotiate the publication process effectively.

This 3-day workshop explores key considerations in effective writing for publication:

  1. Article format and structure
  2. Journal choice
  3. Instructions to authors and style
  4. Managing the submission and review process

By the end of the workshop, participants will be able to make rational choices about how to maximize their likelihood of success in research publication.

Manuscript Masterclass

This highly intensive, advanced workshop provides a rare opportunity for young researchers to prepare their own research articles for publication with the dedicated support of a professional writing consultant. The workshop is open to highly motivated students who have already participated in foundation-level training in writing as part of the DIPP programme and have also completed the Writing for Publication workshop. It is offered on a competitive basis and applicants will be expected to demonstrate that they have appropriate data to be ready to write a manuscript for publication and also that they have an appropriate level of commitment and motivation to take full advantage of the opportunity. Selected participants will then be given instructions on how to prepare for the workshop by developing a draft of their manuscript. Advice will also be provided on how to work effectively with their supervisors during this time. During the workshop, participants will have regular one-to-one tutorials on their work, group feedback sessions and dedicated writing time. The advanced, individual training that students receive within this masterclass places them at a significant advantage in their postdoctoral careers and beyond.