Introduction to how to read, write, present

Total duration – ca. 2 hour.

This exercise will provide you with some basic information about reading, writing, presenting – which will be useful though-out the course. It also sets some of the ground work for an exercise later in the course.

Read the following linked documents:

  • How to read a scientific article (Developed by the Cain Project at Rice University). This provides you with a structured approach to reading research articles. At the end of the piece there is a check-list which you can use to record notes about each paper. You should use this later in this exercise.
  • How to write a literature review. You can find many articles on this topic on the Web. I choose this one because it is quiet simple and laid out in a way that makes the information easy to digest. If you have already written a literature review as part of your project proposal take few moments to think if you would have researched and written it any differently had you read this article before starting.
  • How to present clearly (also a Cain Project resource). This is quite detailed, but it is designed specifically for presentations of scientific research. Once you have had a chance to absorb these two sets of suggestions, begin to think how this new knowledge will affect your own personal presentation style.
  • The science of scientific writing argues that science should not be hard to read. Most people assume that its difficulties are born out of necessity, out of the extreme complexity of scientific concepts, data and analysis. The authors argue here that complexity of thought need not lead to impenetrability of expression; they demonstrate a number of principles that can produce clarity in communication without oversimplifying scientific issues.

Think about how you will apply these concepts to the way you work? As groups, make a short list of the main things you learnt from these articles and send the lists to me.

Optional additional exercises.

Using review articles

Total duration – ca. 1.5 hours minutes.

Choose a recent review article which describes progress in an area that is outside your main field of interest (but in a similar discipline so you understand what is going on).

Review articles provide a valuable access point to understanding where the current frontiers of a research field are. They are also useful tools with which to start a full literature search.

Using the advice (and the check list) given in the documents listed above, begin to think how you can summarize and explain subsequent progress in this field to your colleagues.

Tip: Many reviews are published in specialist journals that are devoted to the publication of articles which summarize progress in some particular area or topic. Examples include the Trends in … series, published by Elsevier, the Current Opinion in … journals, also published by Elsevier, Nature Publishing company’s Nature Reviews in … and the Annual Reviews series. In addition, many research journals publish some review articles.

Presenting practice

Total duration – ca. 1.5 hours minutes.

Once you have chosen a suitable article, begin to work on developing answers to the following questions. Note: these answers do not need to be submitted until just before the start of Segment 5:

  1. Provide me with the full reference for the review article, plus the corresponding hyperlink to the source of the full text.
  2. Write a short introduction to the subject you have chosen making it clear how the article you have selected contributes to an understanding of the important growth areas in the field.
  3. Describe two important examples of outstanding questions addressed by the review article and identify some examples of publications describing more recent progress in these areas. Give references and a short summary explaining how each of these subsequent publications has contributed to our knowledge (You can use the template from the “How to read…” article.
  4. Send me your early thoughts as a Word document to receive feedback and a preliminary grade. Note: Do this during Segment 3 at the latest
  5. Develop a 5-slide presentation to be given at the beginning of Segment 5.