The Writing Studio and Scientific Writing

You may be wondering who exactly the Duke Writing Studio is meant to serve: undergrads? grad students? native speakers? ESL students? folks in the humanities? in the sciences? lions? tigers? bears (oh my!)?

The answer is: (almost) all of the above. While we don’t see too many lions, tigers, or bears (alas), we see everyone from first- and even pre-first-year undergraduates to advanced graduate students, from English, to Biology, to Engineering majors.

Recently, we here at the Studio have been discussing our relationship to the disciplines, particularly to those that aren’t as heavily represented by the students we tutor. The central question in this discussion sounds something like this: What can the tutors in the Writing Studio, the majority of whom are trained in the humanities, offer to students in the scientific disciplines? In other words, what can science students expect from their time spent in the Writing Studio?

These aren’t questions we’ve answered in any final sense, but we are continually restating and rethinking our commitment to an interdisciplinary, if not university-wide, vision. One thing that we keep returning to, no matter what “population” or “demographic” we discuss, is the importance of teaching, or better, guiding each writer we see toward prose (or poetry) that is both clear and concise. While most of us might not be able to discuss recent developments in neuroscience (although we’d love to ask you about it!) as experts or even apprentices in the field, we can converse with you about what works in your writing and what might require a little fine tuning, about how your sentences, paragraphs, and arguments are structured.

More than this, however, we can point you toward a number of resources, developed by and for scientific writers, that might begin to answer your discipline-specific questions.

As a way of whetting your appetite, here are a couple of the recent handouts on science writing, both of which can be found on the Writing Studio website’s main page:

http://cgi.duke.edu/web/sciwriting/index.php
http://cgi.duke.edu/web/sciwriting/resources/201108_DukeScientificWritingWorkshop.pdf

These resources are only a beginning, as the Writing Studio further expands its reach into the sciences. We are learning as you learn, and in this process of interdisciplinary collaboration, we hope to help you become better writers and to make the Writing Studio a more effective resource for everyone. So scientists (and everybody else), make an appointment and come see us sometime soon!

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