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Written Communication and Presentation Skills

A UIC Faculty Senate subcommittee conducted surveys of graduate students as well as faculty and staff to determine the challenges faced in the production of high quality graduate student writing. One remedy that surfaced was the creation of a specific course to improve graduate student writing, Written Communication and Presentation Skills (GC 512).
The course provides students with the process and skills to write according to the conventions of academic English and to communicate with specialist and nonspecialist audiences. GC 512 was designed for doctoral students who have completed at least 32 credit hours in their STEM PhD program. We have since added a non-STEM section and have experimented with a relaxation of the 32-credit-hour requirement. Preference will be given to students who have completed their coursework.
Ordinarily, the student's Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) must approve and recommend registration to the Graduate College. The Graduate College will review the recommendations and approve based upon space and need. After December 1st, for the spring semester, graduate students with significant writing projects (project, article, lit review, chapter) can contact Benn Williams ( directly with their name, UIN, NetID, department/program, section preference. For this course, the instructor CANNOT provide the registrations overrides -- only the Graduate College can. Enrollment for each section is capped at 18.
The elective course carries 3 hours of credit, runs the entire semester. Grading is "Satisfactory / Unsatisfactory."  GC 512 is eligible to be used as a free elective, although all programs may not allow the credit to be used towards degree requirements.  If this is a concern, students are advised to confer with their Director of Graduate Studies. The course may be repeated for credit, space permitting.
For Spring 2019 there will be one STEM and one non-STEM section.
  • CRN 39467 - STEM students will meet Thursdays, 3:30 - 6:20 p.m. in Stevenson Hall (SH) 101.
  • CRN 40746 - non-STEM students will meet Wednesdays, 3 - 5:50 p.m. in the Student Services Building (SSB) 2790 on "2North."

Course Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:

1. write according to the conventions of academic English 

*at the sentence level: use various types of clauses, make appropriate verb choices, avoid needless complexity and jargon

*at the paragraph level: write clear topic sentences, employ smooth transitions within paragraphs, and create coherence across paragraphs

2. use a writing process prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, submitting to successfully complete academic writing assignments

3. identify strengths and weaknesses in a text

4. create effective posters and/or PowerPoint presentations

5. communicate effectively with specialist and nonspecialist audiences

Sample Course Topics (subject to change)  

Week 1: Course Introduction; Audience, tone, and purpose; Verbs: action, reporting, linking
Week 2: Writing from general-specific texts; Specialist vs nonspecialist audiences; Combining clauses
Week 3: Problem process, solution;Specialist vs nonspecialist audiences; Embedded, noun, and complement clauses; Workshop #1
Week 4: Data commentary; Hedging, boasting, and positioning
Week 5: Writing summaries; Collocation and corpus searching; Workshop #2
Week 6: Writing critiques; Collocation and corpus searching (pt. 2); Workshop #3
Week 7: Writing abstracts; Establishing theme, flow, cohesion
Week 8: Writing about methods; Establishing theme, flow, cohesion (pt. 2); Workshop #4
Week 9: Writing about results; Reducing wordiness
Week 10: Writing a discussion section; Workshop #5
Week 11: Writing a discussion section (pt 2); Transitional phrases
Week 12: Posters and presentations: layout and visuals; Workshop #6
Week 13: Posters and presentations: layout and visuals (pt .2); Citation: what and how
Week 14: Workshop # 7
Weeks 15-16: Course wrap-up; Students present work