for the 2020-21 autumn term is now open. Register to gain access to the CfAE Effective Communication Hub.

Online delivery

To be able to fully participate in our online session(s), you will need to
  • have access to a computer with both a camera and microphone,
  • have a reliable internet connection,
  • be willing or able to use Microsoft Teams.

If you are interested in

  • writing academic texts in a more reader-friendly way,
  • expanding and refining your academic vocabulary,
  • presenting in a more engaging and effective way,
  • boosting the efficiency of your reading, or
  • improving your professional interactions,

participate in one or more of our Communicating Science Successfully (CSS) sessions. 

Our online workshops are video presentations embedded into a Microsoft Form that you can watch at your own pace. The videos have been specially created for online learning and contain all the material from our original workshop sessions. The questions within the form check your understanding of the concepts. 

We will also be holding a 'live' Q&A session, which will be via Teams video chat. You are encouraged to attend these sessions to ask any questions and listen to questions others raise to learn more and consolidate your understanding. 

If you're interested in one or more of these workshops, please register to access our CfAE Effective Communication Hub in Microsoft 365 Teams, where you will be able to sign up for them and access other resources that the Centre offers. Please be sure to click on the link in the email you are sent in order to access the Hub.

Please note that access to the Q&A session is dependent on your having watched the workshop video and completed the Microsoft Form first.

Autumn term 2020: Q&A session dates
DayDatesUK Time Session
Wednesday  21 October 9:00-9:30 or 14:00-14:30 (repeat) Informality and formality
Wednesday  21 October 9:30-10:00 or 14:30-15:00 (repeat) Academic email etiquette
Wednesday  28 October
9:00-9:30 or 14:00-14:30 (repeat) Listening strategies
Wednesday  28 October
9:30-10:00 or 14:30-15:00 (repeat) Reading strategies
Wednesday  4 November
9:00-9:30 or 14:00-14:30 (repeat) Writing with impact and clarity
Wednesday  4 November 9:30-10:00 or 14:30-15:00 (repeat) Writing a lab report
Wednesday  11 November 9:00-9:30 or 14:00-14:30 (repeat) Preparing successful PowerPoint presentations 
Wednesday  11 November 9:30-10:00 or 14:30-15:00 (repeat) Writing effective essays
Wednesday  18 November 9:00-9:30 or 14:00-14:30 (repeat) Keeping your reader engaged (cohesion)
Wednesday  18 November 9:30-10:00 or 14:30-15:00 (repeat) Mastering STEMM vocabulary 
Wednesday  25 November 9:00-9:30 or 14:00-14:30 (repeat) Using tenses
Wednesday  25 November 9:30-10:00 or 14:30-15:00 (repeat) Writing a literature review  
Wednesday  2 December 9:00-9:30 or 14:00-14:30 (repeat) Preparing successful poster presentations
Wednesday  2 December 9:30-10:00 or 14:30-15:00 (repeat) Critical writing
Wednesday  9 December 9:00-9:30 or 14:00-14:30 (repeat Using your voice to deliver a successful presentation
Wednesday  9 December 9:30-10:00 or 14:30-15:00 (repeat) Improving your covering letter: Language which opens doors 
Summary of the table's contents

Description of sessions

Informality and formality

The aim of this workshop is to make you aware that audience affects the level of formality of communication and to help you develop a suitably formal style for academic STEMM writing.

You will therefore: 

  • understand that audience affects the level of formality of our communication   
  • be able to recognise formal and informal language 
  • begin to make a shift towards more formal academic style in writing  

Academic email etiquette

The aim of this workshop is to help you communicate appropriately with academic staff, admin teams and support services by email. 

You will therefore:

  • have a better understanding of email etiquette for your studies    
  • understand how to write more concise and effective emails   
  • expand your formal vocabulary for academic emails 

Listening strategies

The aim of this workshop is to help you ‘tune in’ to the STEMM communication around you and identify techniques and useful practice for improving your listening.  

 You will therefore: 

  • notice features of fast speech that might make it difficult to understand  
  • learn some of the differences between speech and writing      
  • develop strategies for managing lecture listening

Reading strategies

The aim of this workshop is to develop your understanding of effective academic reading strategies for successful STEMM communication.

You will therefore: 

  • learn strategies to improve your reading efficiency and effectiveness   
  • understand how to read in a way that improves your academic writing 
  • learn how to make notes in a way that avoids plagiarism 

Writing with impact and clarity

The aim of this workshop is to raise your awareness of good scientific writing. If a reader struggles to access your science because you have not thought about the clarity and impact of what you write, you will fail in a fundamental aspect of being a good scientist, namely passing on your knowledge so that others can build on it.  

You will therefore: 

  • have a better understanding of good scientific writing 

  • understand how to write with clarity (giving you a happy reader) 

  • be able to write with impact (giving you an engaged & supportive reader) 

Writing a lab report

The aim of this workshop is to clarify the format of a standard lab report and analyse examples of text and language so you can structure your writing and communicate your ideas more effectively .

You will therefore:  

  • understand the structure and purpose of a lab report   
  • know what information belongs in each section   
  • identify the key language features of a lab report 

Preparing successful PowerPoint presentations

The aim of this workshop is to ensure that you prepare clear and professional PowerPoint presentations which are appropriate to an academic context. 

You will therefore: 

  • be able to structure your presentation in a way that clearly communicates your science to your audience 

  • use clearer signposting language to create a strong narrative 

  • upgrade your knowledge on how to use slides effectively to support your delivery 

Writing effective essays

The aim of this workshop is to clarify the format and content of an essay on a STEMM subject. The workshop explores how to plan and structure an essay and how to evaluate and comment effectively.  

You will therefore: 

  • understand how a point-driven essay is more effective than an information-driven essay 
  • recognise that an essay is a selective response to a title and includes evaluative comment   
  • understand how to plan and structure a clear, reader-friendly essay

Keeping your reader engaged (cohesion)

The aim of this workshop is to show you how to write a coherent, reader-friendly text. Even when each sentence in a paragraph is lucid and well formed, the text can still feel disjointed and unfocussed.   

You will therefore: 

  • understand how to build a coherent flow of information that the reader can track with little effort 

  • upgrade your awareness of what is meant by effective scientific communication 

  • learn techniques that expert writers use to keep the reader engaged 

Mastering STEMM vocabulary

The aim of this workshop is to give you strategies for learning new academic and technical vocabulary to maximise the effectiveness of your STEMM communication. 

You will therefore: 

  • be able to recognise which words and phrases to learn and use in your writing and speaking 
  • understand how to learn vocabulary for STEMM more efficiently 
  • understand how to use vocabulary accurately and effectively 

Using tenses

The aim of this workshop is to highlight how verb tenses are used in academic STEMM writing. Through real examples in context, you will gain a better understanding of how to use tenses to accurately communicate your message. 

You will therefore: 

  • understand how key verb tenses are used in STEMM writing  

  • understand how tenses in STEMM writing relate to the stance of the writer rather than time  

  • recognise how effective use of tenses controls how the reader interprets your message 


Writing a literature review

The aim of this workshop is to clarify the format and language of a literature review and how to build a coherent narrative that guides the reader through the literature. 

You will therefore:   

  • understand how to plan and structure a literature review  

  • understand how to synthesise and paraphrase key ideas from the literature  

  • recognise how language in an effective literature review is used to guide the reader through the narrative  

Preparing successful poster presentations

The aim of this workshop is to ensure that you prepare clear and professional poster presentations which are appropriate to a diverse and fluid audience in an academic context. 

You will therefore: 

  • understand the interactive nature of poster presentations and how they differ from PowerPoint presentations 

  • identify some good and bad practice in order to prepare successful poster presentations 

  • learn appropriate signposting language to respond dynamically to your audience and keep them engaged 

Critical writing

The aim of this workshop is to help you develop the language and strategies needed for effective critical STEMM writing (i.e. writing that evaluates as well as describes information).  

You will therefore: 

  • improve your understanding of what it means to write critically in an academic STEMM context  
  • gain a better understanding of how to identify critical language in a text and how to write critically
  • be able express your own thinking more effectively in your writing 

Using your voice to deliver a successful presentation

The aim of this workshop is to help you become a more effective public speaker. Many people forget that their voice is crucial to giving an effective and engaging presentation. If you use your voice poorly, your audience may disengage from what you are saying or miss key points.  

You will therefore: 

  • Learn how to how to use your voice as a communicative tool 

  • Learn how to add life and gravitas to your presentations 

  • Upgrade your ability to deliver successful, engaging presentations  

Improving your covering letter: Language which opens doors

The aim of this workshop is to help you develop impressive covering letters which get you through to the next stage of the recruitment process. You only have one chance to make a good first impression. The content of your covering letter (what you’ve done) is obviously extremely important but so too is the language you use (how you tell the company what you’ve done).  

You will therefore: 

  • learn how to write clear, concise and persuasive covering letters 

  • upgrade your knowledge of what content should and shouldn’t be included  

  • understand what is culturally appropriate in a UK covering letter 

Using modal verbs: can or could?

Modal verbs have very specific uses in STEM writing.  This session offers advice on how to interpret the most commonly used modals accurately and how to avoid ambiguity in your own writing.  We focus specifically on expressing possibility, probability and caution. 

Using relative clauses: that or which?

Do you want an efficient way to link the idea of almost any sentence to the next?  Do you want to know how to give a name to something you don't have a name for? If your answer is yes to these questions, then relative clauses may be the answer.  This is a seminar in three parts:

  • Before we meet, you'll be given access to a 20-minute video lecture you can pause, rewind and fast forward at your own pace with a practice worksheet.
  • When we meet, the 50-minute seminar will provide you with the opportunity to ask questions and do some more practice.
  • After we meet, you'll be invited to submit a paragraph which shows the use of relative clauses in action.

Using the passive: did or was done?

Students are often told to “use the passive in academic writing”. However, there are quite a few cases in which the passive form may not be appropriate or clear. Based on authentic examples of STEM sentences and texts, this session will help you understand when you should and maybe shouldn’t use the passive, what the alternatives are, and how to avoid common passive-related errors.

Using punctuation: comma or hyphen?

Making choices about punctuation in your writing may not seem too important, but it can dramatically change the meaning of your sentences. Take these two sentences as an example: 1) “Let’s eat, Grandma”; 2) “Let’s eat Grandma”. Can you see how the punctuation changes the meaning? Are you able to use punctuation correctly and effectively in your writing? Can you be sure that your sentences mean what you think they do? This session will address common errors in punctuation and focus in particular on the most prevalent punctuation issue in STEM writing, when and how to use the comma. 

Using prepositions: by or with?

Many students have learned general rules for the use of prepositions, but they may not realise that most prepositions have more than one meaning. It is, however, impossible (and unnecessary!) to learn them all. This session aims to help you develop effective strategies to identify the prepositions that you need for your discipline so that you can learn them and use them accurately in your own texts.

Using articles: a or the?

The aim of this workshop is to highlight when you should and shouldn’t use articles (a/the) in academic STEMM writing. Through real examples in context, you will gain a better understanding of when and how to use articles to accurately communicate your message. 

 You will therefore: 

  • understand how articles (a/the) are used in STEMM writing  
  • understand how articles in STEMM writing relate to shared knowledge with the reader 
  • recognise how effective use of articles helps the reader to follow your message 

Writing the Introduction

Writing the Introduction

The aim of this workshop is to clarify the content of a dissertation introduction. You will analyse examples of text and language so that you can structure your writing and communicate your ideas more effectively.

You will therefore:  

  • understand the purpose and conventional structure of an Introduction to a dissertation
  • understand how to guide the reader towards the value of your dissertation
  • recognise the importance of language choices when writing an Introduction

Describing the Methods and Results

The aim of this workshop is to identify informational content of the method and results sections and to highlight important language features of these two sections of your dissertation.   

You will therefore:  

  • understand how to organise and write a coherent method description
  • understand how to write in a way that guides your reader through your interpretation of your key results 
  • recognise the importance of language choices when writing these sections

Writing the Discussion, Conclusion and Abstract

The aim of this workshop is to clarify the purpose and format of the Discussion, Conclusions and Abstract as part of a longer report/dissertation.

You will therefore:  

  • understand how to discuss implications of the results and draw conclusions that give the reader a clear and persuasive message 
  • understand how to concisely and accurately summarise the highlights of a dissertation in a coherent abstract
  • recognise the importance of language choices and consistency when writing these sections