So you have to write a proposal . . . - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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So you have to write a proposal . . .
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So you have to write a proposal . . .

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  1. So you have to write a proposal . . . Welcome to Research! Science Research Workshops January 14, 2010 Prof. Penny Hirsch The Writing Program Northwestern University

  2. Writing isn’t usually a science student’s favorite activity . . . You would rather be in the lab . . .

  3. But scientists do a lot of writing! • Lab reports • Research reports • Grant proposals • Policies, procedures, protocols • White papers • Professional journal articles • Textbooks • Conference papers • Speeches • Articles for the popular press and company newsletters

  4. Today’s focus: to help you get started by thinking of writing as problem-solving • Presentation topics • About me • What constitutes “good writing”? • Why you should follow a “writing process” • Brief look at SRW tools for proposal writing • Time to get started

  5. We want you to move from . . .

  6. My experience: 30 years of communication teaching and consulting • At Northwestern • Professor & Assoc. Director, Weinberg Writing Program • Joint appointment in the McCormick School • Faculty co-chair & a founder of Engineering Design and Communication (EDC) • Faculty Fellow in the Segal Design Institute • Researcher in science and engineering writing pedagogy and assessment • NCEER, VaNTH • Principal in my own communication consulting firm • Communication Partners ( • Many scientists as clients • at Baxter Healthcare, Amgen, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago • Familiar with many types of science writing: • policies & procedures, internal audits, progress reports, presentation slide decks, etc.

  7. Why I believe you can write a good proposal You’re smart & logical. You’re writing about something you like. Other people will help you!

  8. PROPOSAL words figures math Writing isn’t just editing; it’s a complex way of thinking and communicating If you can communicate clearly, that means you really know your science!

  9. Experts approach writing as problem-solving, not rules • Novices (students) do too much “school” • writing; they think too much about rules • What’s the “right” way to begin my proposal? • How long should my lit. review be? • Can I use personal pronouns? • Experts--practicing scientists--think • about strategy • Purpose: Who do I have to convince & why? • Audience: • - What questions will they have? • - What evidence will they respect? • Genre: What format should I follow?

  10. Have a conceptual framework in mind when you write – like this “communication square” PROPOSAL audience content or message persona or tone purpose

  11. A framework can be adapted to different purposes and audiences • People who have different ideas about “good writing” • Why? Because they work in different discourse communities • Members share the same discipline, background, professional goals • Good writing differs from field to field • Science writing is different from journalism, literature, law • “Good” is also defined by genre • Type of writing: instructions v. proposal v. poem • Readers in a specific field come to a document type with specific expectations “Good writing” fulfills the expectations of people within a specific discourse community

  12. What will your readers want? • Substantive content • clear purpose • knowledge of the field • Etc. -- (see the proposal template) • Organization that makes key information easy to find • A professional finish (good grammar, correct punctuation, neat appearance, correct citations) One research study at NU showed that profs mainly want to see: • Clear explanations of technical subjects • Compelling evidence for arguments All readers expect correct grammar and mechanics

  13. For funding, you need an A+ proposal, so consider what makes an A paper Excerpt from Good Writing Standards handout used by WP faculty

  14. For funding, you need an A+ proposal, so consider what makes an A paper Excerpt from Good Writing Standards handout used by WP faculty

  15. Procrastination is common: “I’ll do my research first and then later just ‘write it up’” Rule #1: Get started! Bad idea! Writing is a process that requires planning, feedback, & iteration. As you write, you get smarter!

  16. planning/ getting / drafting material writing & organizing getting feedback rewriting revising for style & final editing Writing starts with rough ideas and evolves as you get material, get feedback, & revise You’re here

  17. Step 1: reviewing purpose and audience • Purpose • Audience • Who are ALL of your readers? • What are their backgrounds? • What does that imply for your writing?

  18. Step 2 = writing down notes • Take a concept from your lab and define it so a general reader can understand what the lab does and why • Start writing sections that are easy • Review the template • Look at an annotated proposal for your field • Write your preparation section Look at the preparation section in the biology proposal (see handout)

  19. Step 3: What other writing decisions can you make now? • Formatting: • Headings or not? • Good for 1st draft • Later, replace with strong topic sentences? • Font style and size • Using the right style and size for your draft will help you judge length • Citations: what style should you use? • Writing style: anything you should be watching for?

  20. Common writing problems to avoid • Common usage errors • Affects vs effects • Amount vs number • Because vs as • Data is. . . vs. Data are . . . • Compliment vs. complement • Hyperbolic adverbs to avoid: incredibly, unbelievably • Unnecessary qualifiers: truly, really, very • Imprecise words for measurements: “about 10 grams” Later – for editing – go to the Writing Place for help

  21. You can write a winning proposal! • Very high success rate from students who take these workshops • Think positively! • Every draft -- even notes -- will take you forward • A proposal is short • Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from peers • Don’t feel stupid asking questions • When reviewing others’ work, be “gentle”! • Okay to criticize • But be nice! • Use the SRW facilitators for help and other campus resources • The Writing Place • Librarians • Faculty

  22. Today’s exercises -- to do with facilitators • Use the Research Process Checklist: check what have you already done • Group discussion: go over the Proposal Template • Begin reading (your lit. review) • Start using the databases for research (facilitators demo) -- read about what your lab does • Notice the lit review tip sheets on Blackboard • Start writing your preparation section • List research courses / experiences you’ve had -- or will have • Make notes: what did you learn from these experiences that prepares you to do research? • Exchange with a partner • Using the style advice on slide #20, correct the errors in the practice sentences on the writing handout

  23. And if you become discouraged . . . Just take a break!