PhD Authors' editor and docent of research writing in the biomedical sciences, Vidor (TV), Italy.Abstract:
Correct academic English is no longer a prerequisite for the publishability of research articles, especially in the natural sciences. Yet, clear, consistent and genre-compliant writing helps a manuscript get through peer review and is essential for the usability of the published research. Thus, early career researchers need not only to learn academic English, but especially to master a range of skills for research reporting.
My work as editor exposed me to the challenges Italian researchers have in reporting their research, so I developed a semester-long course called Effective Biomedical Writing. This course, which has already been given nine times, covers selected topics of academic English plus research article genre, data presentation, technical reporting, and other publication skills. It provides a method for writing a biomedical research report that participants use to write up their own work during the course. I am not only the course instructor, but also the editor on multiple versions of the growing manuscripts. By the end of the course, each manuscript is scored as "accepted" or "incomplete" (if major revisions are needed).
In my talk, I will use this teaching experience to make the case that research writing should be taught by subject specialists (with native or near-native English proficiency). With their knowledge of the experimental models and methods and familiarity with the genres and journals of the discipline, these instructors can talk with students about research and find effective linguistic solutions to explain complex concepts. These instructors, however, require an additional competence, namely the ability to teach academic English and, in particular, to articulate the features of good grammar and style. To this aim, subject specialists who wish to teach research writing can benefit (as I did) from interactions with ERPP language professionals, for example at meetings like those of Mediterranean Editors and Translators (www.metmeetings.org
). The competence thus acquired, however, is unlikely to be recognized by universities, so these subject specialists may be excluded from teaching writing in research settings. This impasse could be circumvented if ERPP language professionals take on the tasks of preparing subject specialists to teach research writing and providing didactic support to the courses. In presenting my experiences and opinions on this topic, I hope to stimulate the design of new, effective courses in research writing.
Early career researchers should be taught research writing by members of their own discipline.
A research writing course should require participants to write research papers, which should undergo editing and review for a full learning experience and for assessment.
An effective course on research article writing has only one instructor who teaches both writing and reporting; these skills cannot usefully be dissociated one from the other.
Subject specialists who are able to teach research writing rarely have formal qualifications for these teaching positions.
ERPP language professionals can support the teaching of research writing by subject specialists in several ways:
- Support to instructors, by providing training and teaching materials
- Support during lessons, by being present and contributing to the discussions
- Support to students, by providing after-class, individualized tutoring.
ERPP language professionals can train the trainers, i.e. by selecting subject specialists able to teach research writing and training them in pertinent topics of linguistics.