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,

you may benefit from one or more of our 50-minute Communicating Science Successfully (CSS) sessions. These are open to everyone (all students, academics and researchers) and are held at South Kensington. Your confirmation email for each session will specify the venue, as it changes from week to week.

2019-20 Session dates
Wednesday 22 January  14:00 - 15:00  Using articles 
Wednesday 22 January  15:00 - 16:00  Using the passive
Wednesday 29 January  14:00 - 15:00  Using prepositions 
Wednesday 29 January 15:00 - 16:00  Knowing your genre: a guide to successful poster and Powerpoint presentations
Wednesday 5 February 14:00 - 15:00  Using tenses 
Wednesday 5 February 15:00 - 16:00  Writing with impact and clarity
Wednesday 12 February 14:00 - 15:00  Using relative clauses
Wednesday 12 February 15:00 - 16:00  Improving your covering letter: language which opens doors
Wednesday 19 February  14:00 - 15:00  Keeping your reader engaged and building a cohesive text 
Wednesday 19 February 15:00 - 16:00  Using modal verbs
Wednesday 26 February  14:00 - 15:00  Using your voice: adding life to your public speaking
Wednesday 26 February 15:00 - 16:00  Using punctuation
Wednesday 4 March    14:00 - 15:00  Writing with impact and clarity (repeat session) 
Wednesday 4 March  15:00 - 16:00  Mastering vocabulary for STEMM writing
Summary of the table's contents

Description of sessions

Using articles: a or the?

Many students have learned rules on the use of articles (a/an, the or zero article) but don't realise that in STEM writing the writer's choice of article can have an impact on meaning. This session reviews the use of articles through examples in context and aims to help you gain a better understanding of how to communicate your work more accurately.

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 tenses: do, did or done?

Many students have learned general rules for the use of tenses, but don’t realise that in STEM writing, it’s more often a question of tense choice than ‘correct’ tense. In this session, the three main tenses used in science writing (present simple, past simple and present perfect) will be discussed and through real examples in context, you will gain a better understanding of how to use them to accurately communicate your science.

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.

Keeping your reader engaged

Poor coherence in writing is often the greatest impediment to successful communication. Even when each sentence in a paragraph is lucid and well formed, the text can still feel disjointed, unfocussed and lack a unified whole. If a reader struggles to follow the flow of information, they will quickly lose interest and you will not have successfully communicated your research. This session will show you how to build a coherent flow of information that the reader can track with little effort. It will also increase your awareness of what is meant by effective scientific communication, demonstrating techniques expert writers use to keep the reader engaged.

Writing with impact and clarity

A mastery of grammar and vocabulary does not mean that you will automatically write with impact and clarity. A text can be very accurate and use a sophisticated range of words but still be unclear and painful for a reader to work through. If a reader struggles to access your science because you have not thought about the clarity and impact of what you write, you will have produced a ‘bad’ text and failed in one of the fundamental aspects of being a good scientist, namely passing on your knowledge so that others can build on it. This session will help you write with more clarity (giving you a happy reader) and write with more impact (giving you an engaged and supportive reader); it will also upgrade your understanding of good scientific writing.

Using your voice: adding life to your presentations

There are many things that make a good presentation. Your science is clearly very important, as are the visuals you use to present the science. Many people, however, forget that their voice is also crucial to giving an effective and engaging presentation. Use your voice poorly and your audience may ‘zone out’ or disengage from what you are saying; they may not even grasp some of the key points you are trying to get across. This session will show you how to use your voice well. It will help you add life and gravitas to your presentations, and become a more effective public speaker.

Mastering vocabulary for STEMM writing

Vocabulary is key to writing well. When a text has problems with vocabulary, it can appear ambiguous, informal, inappropriate, confusing, and annoying – not qualities we expect to find in STEMM writing at Imperial College London. This session will show you a number of strategies to refine and control your vocabulary and maximise the effectiveness of your text.

Improving your CV/covering letter: language which opens doors

You only have one chance to make a good first impression. If your CV or covering letter fails to impress, you are unlikely to get through to the next stage in the recruitment process. The content of your CV/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). This session will explore good and bad practice when writing a CV/covering letter, covering such aspects as grammar (which tense?), vocabulary (how formal?), and cultural appropriacy (does it make you look odd?).

Knowing your genre: poster vs PowerPoint presentations

Today almost all students, at every level, will be expected to present an aspect of their research output orally. This can take the form of a PowerPoint-style presentation (using slides, etc.) or a poster presentation. These two forms, clearly, have some similarities and share certain techniques; however, in some important aspects they are very different and require a different approach and different language. This session shares some good and bad practice from each genre and offers advice which will help you present in both form as effectively and professionally as possible.