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Unit information: Science and Success: Writing, Speaking and Communicating Science in 2015/16

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Unit name Science and Success: Writing, Speaking and Communicating Science
Unit code BIOL20014
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Holderied
Open unit status Not open

None. Recommended: 120cp of appropriate Level 1 units in Biological Sciences



School/department School of Biological Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will teach a range of transferable skills, including scientific writing and presentation skills, writing for the media, as well as professional profile development, job application and interview skills. The unit has the short-term aim of preparing you for writing up and presenting your field course report, your final year research and library projects, and the long term aim of preparing you for job hunting and life after graduation. Writing clearly is a key skill in many careers and while it is relatively easy to recognize good writing, it is rather harder to write well yourself. Similarly a good spoken presentation is obvious, but it is harder to characterise the factors that make it so good. Working in small groups of peers in an innovative award-winning online collaboration, you will learn both of these skills and use them to edit and write short reports and give a presentation. Success in science, and elsewhere, is obviously dependant on finding a job in which to succeed. You will apply for real jobs, short-list your peer applications, and then interview others and be interviewed by peers in realistic peer role play. You will learn about digital literacy. To prepare you for a possible career in the media you will write a species profile for, which may be published online. All parts of the course will be taught within a biological context. The unit culminates in you writing your Personal Development Plan based on a very detailed ~14 page personal feedback package. This teaches you the ability to review, plan and take responsibility for your own learning. Aims: Preparing students for life after graduation through teaching key transferable skills

  • Using collaborative and activity-based teaching approaches to maximise impact and retention rates.
  • Improve written communication skills through (1) online peer collaboration and assessment of individual scientific writing, and (2) writing for the media, which is marked and published by journalists on the platform.
  • Improve oral communication skills through (1) oral presentations, and (2) a job interview.
  • Improve understanding of digital literacy and employability, and learn about LinkedIn profiles.
  • Improve team work skills through peer collaboration and peer assessment in (1) scientific writing (2) oral presentations (3) presentation assessment (4) short-listing panels (5) interview panels.
  • Improve job hunting skills through (1) applying for a real job advert with CV and covering letter, (2) being interviewed for the job, (3) short-listing peer applications in a panel, and (4) interviewing peers.

All parts of the course will be taught within a biological context.

Intended Learning Outcomes

1. Learn to write a scientific paper, citing published papers

2. Learn to give presentations

3. Learn how to write a CV and covering letter

4. Learn key interview skills

5. Learn about digital literacy and employability

6. Learn how to write for the media

7. Produce an evidence-based personal development plan

Teaching Information

• Limited number of lectures from invited specialists.

• Teaching for this unit is mainly based on peer collaboration and assessment using online platform BlackBoard.

• Scientific writing: online peer collaboration, peer reviewing and peer and tutor assessment and marking.

• Presentations: group presentations to peer panel, peer feedback and assessment, demonstrator feedback and marking.

• Job applications and interview: group work, role play in shortlisting and interview panels, being interviewed, peer and demonstrator assessment and marking.

• Writing for the media: produce individual species profiles, assessed and marked by science journalists.

• Personal Development Planning (PDP): use a ~14 page personal feedback report to produce a personal development plan.

Assessment Information

• All elements of this unit are assessed, and this includes extensive peer feedback, assessment and marking, as well as demonstrator and tutor feedback and marking.

• Written and oral communication skills are tested using role play in which students apply for a job and take part in interviews.

• Each student will receive a ~14-page personal feedback package on which to base a personal development plan.

• Exclusively continuous assessment in this unit, i.e. no exam. Weightings: 40% scientific writing; 20% oral presentation; 20% job applications; 20% writing for the media.

Reading and References

• Toft, C.A. (1998) Oral presentations at scientific meetings. Herpetologica, 54, S67-S75.

• Toft, C.A. & Jaeger, R.G. (1998) Writing for scientific journals I: The manuscript. Herpetologica, 54, S42-S54.

• Waser, N.M., Price, M.V., & Grosberg, R.K. (1992) Writing An Effective Manuscript Review. Bioscience, 42, 621-623.

• Jaeger, R.G. & Toft, C.A. (1998) Writing for scientific journals II: The review process. Herpetologica, 54, S54-S63.

• Matthews, J.R., Bowen, J.M. & Matthews, R.W. 3rd edition 2007. Successful Scientific Writing. Cambridge University Press.