Writing Group

Purpose

The goal of the Genetics writing group is to help students prepare thoughtful and well-written research proposals to be submitted as the written portion of the program’s comprehensive examination. Graduate student peers review a submitted draft proposal, prepare constructive feedback, and meet with the author to discuss how the proposal could be improved. The writing group sessions provide an informal atmosphere to discuss draft proposals and makes recommendations for their improvement.

Benefits to submission

Students who have their draft proposals reviewed by the writing group receive constructive criticism in a structured setting. Submitting students have the opportunity to respond verbally to elaborate on their ideas and clarify their writing. Senior student reviewers share additional insights with the student from their own successful proposal writing and defense experience. Students uniformly take away helpful input that results in a more clearly written proposal for submission to their examination committee.

Who should review?

Students at all stages of the graduate program are encouraged to participate as reviewers. Early program students can learn from exposure to the proposal writing process and senior students can gain additional practice critically evaluating scientific writing. The strength of the writing group lies in the diversity of research fields represented by student reviewers. Student research proposals should be written for a generally knowledgeable scientific audience, yet frequently first drafts contain unnecessary detail and jargon. Those errors of inclusion are more readily noticed by reviewers who are farther removed from the topic area than are members of the student’s own research group.

Meeting format:

Reviewers are given the draft proposal in advance to read and prepare feedback. The writing group then meets for an informal discussion facilitated by either the Program Director or a senior graduate student. During this discussion all reviewers are given an opportunity to highlight their assessment of the proposal’s strengths and weaknesses. The group discussion progresses from general impressions to more focused section- and paragraph-level evaluations. The discussion may include both literary and scientific feedback. The group will not take time to discuss specific grammatical or typographical errors. However, individual reviewers may highlight such corrections on hard copies which are returned to the author.

Guidelines for submission

Students should prepare their draft proposals in accordance with the guidelines described in the Genetics Program Student Handbook. If possible, students are encouraged to attend a couple of writing group sessions before submitting their own proposals, so that they will be aware of common problem areas, and will have reasonable expectations concerning the topics of discussion and extent of feedback. When a draft is nearing completion, the Program Director should be contacted to assemble a group of volunteer reviewers and schedule a meeting. Draft proposals should be submitted to the writing group electronically a minimum of 7-10 days beforehand to allow members adequate time for reading. The target date for giving a draft to the writing group should be 3 - 4 weeks prior to the deadline for submitting the proposal to the student’s committee. This would allow the student 1-2 weeks for revisions following the writing group meeting to discuss the proposal.