EEB Graduate Writing Workshop

Credits: 1

Instructor: Chris Elphick (email: chris.elphick[AT]

Meeting time: Fridays 8 am – 12 noon

Location: Gant W416

Writing workshop runs each semester, providing a place for graduate students to gather, discuss writing, and (most importantly) write.  During the fall semester we read and discuss The Writing Workshop (available for free as a PDF) by Barbara Sarnecka – not only full of great advice about writing, but perhaps the best book about navigating graduate school.  In spring, we read other related writings.  Students can attend either semester, or both, as often as they like; although we set aside a full morning, students do not have to be present for the entire period.

The workshop is NOT a formal writing instruction class, and is definitely not a Science Communication course (for that, look to EEB 5480 (Science Communication I: Speaking to Public Audiences) and EEB 5482 (Science Communication II: Writing for Public Audiences). The intent is to provide a low-key, stress-alleviating way for people to get (a) coordinated peer-support to help keep writing projects (proposals, prospectuses, chapters, papers, job applications) moving forward, (b) an informal place to discuss writing and publication issues, and (c) a place where people can gather to increase “accountability” (i.e., if you have to show up, it will be harder to procrastinate by cleaning the kitchen). We will have the capacity to join virtually (but will make you keep your camera on – accountability, remember!).

Each week, we will set aside a portion of the time to discuss the week’s reading and for peer-review of someone’s writing.  The remaining time will be used for quiet writing.

Fall semester schedule (subject to change)

Week Peer review Topic Reading Notes
1 Sep Optional meeting CHRIS UNAVAILABLE
8 Sep Intro Sarnecka ch 1 (pp 1-44)
15 Sep Planning time Sarnecka ch 2 (pp 45-75)
22 Sep Practice of writing Sarnecka ch 3 (pp 77-110)
29 Sep Literature reviews Sarnecka ch 4 (pp 111-138)
6 Oct Sci articles Sarnecka ch 5 (pp 139-174)
13 Oct Paragraphs Sarnecka ch 8 (pp 235-264)
20 Oct Sentences Sarnecka ch 9 (pp 265-290)
27 Oct Words Sarnecka ch 10 (pp 291-323)
3 Nov Proposals Sarnecka ch 6 (pp 175-196)
10 Nov Abstracts  
17 Nov Presentations Sarnecka ch 7 (pp 197-234)
1 Dec Bad writing (by lawyers)  Martínez et al. 2023
(don’t get smug – the paper applies to us too …)
8 Dec Prep for elevator pitch improv  

Spring semester schedule (subject to change)

Week Peer review Topic Reading Notes
19 Jan Organizational
26 Jan Chris unavailable
2 Feb Chris unavailable
9 Feb Writing results (structure, repetitive results, single analysis presentation, non-significant results, figs vs text, ) Dynamic ecology on results (be sure to read comments)
16 Feb Reviewing manuscripts Guidelines from Ecosphere
23 Feb Concise writing for broad audience Take this writing challenge (write an abstract or summarize your research in 200 words)
1 Mar Writing papers vs proposals (Subtle) salesmanship
8 Mar Reading sci papers Carey et al. 2022
22 Mar Introductions – 1st paragraph (is broad to narrow structure, always right?) Dynamic ecology on intros
29 Mar How to choose a journal Dynamic ecology on journal selection

Maybe also this (but long).

5 Apr Writing cover letters Dynamic ecology on cover letters
12 Apr Authorship issues  Responsibilities as an authors

Bad co-authors

19 Apr Teaching statements
26 Apr Writing as method St Pierre 2015 (short)

Richardson 2000 (long)

Possible topics for discussion

The British Ecological Society Short Guide to Scientific Writing

Aubrey and Holyoak 2010: Cover letters for journal submissions

Dynamic ecology on intros

Methods: how much detail is needed

Wilkinson et al. 2016: FAIR principles for data management

Code annotation and review

Making good figures

Figure legends (read this)

Discussion and how to end papers

Organizing literature

How to decide what to cite

Dissertation chapters vs papers: what should a dissertation look like?

Descriptive papers (read this)

Revising (McPhee reading)

Writing corrigenda

Dynamic ecology on CVs for academic jobs and Info about non-academic jobs

Student support

Student Health and Wellness – Mental Health: (860) 486-4705 (24 hours)

Graduate Student Support

Dean of Students Office

Academic Achievement Center

Center for Students with Disabilities

Title IX Office

Alcohol, Other Substance Use, and Support

UConn Police Department

Academic rules and conduct

All students should be aware of the guidelines on academic integrity contained in the Student Code, which is available here.

Important Policies

Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment and Related Interpersonal Violence

The University is committed to maintaining a safe and non-discriminatory learning, living, and working environments for all members of the University community – students, employees, or visitors. Academic and professional excellence can flourish only when each member of our community is assured an atmosphere of mutual respect. All members of the University community are responsible for the maintenance of an academic and work environment in which people are free to learn and work without fear of discrimination or discriminatory harassment. In addition, inappropriate amorous relationships can undermine the University’s mission when those in positions of authority abuse or appear to abuse their authority. To that end, and in accordance with federal and state law, the University prohibits discrimination and discriminatory harassment, as well as inappropriate amorous relationships, and such behavior will be met with appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from the University. Additionally, to protect the campus community, all responsible employees (including faculty), as outlined in the Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment and Related Interpersonal Violence, are required to report to the Office of Institutional Equity any information that they receive related to sexual assaults, intimate partner violence, and/or stalking involving a student. An exception to this reporting exists if students disclose information as a part of coursework submitted to an instructor in connection with a course assignment. Even in the absence of such obligation, all Employees are encouraged to contact OIE if they become aware of information that suggests a safety risk to the University community or any member thereof. The University takes all reports with the utmost seriousness. Please be aware that while the information you provide will remain private, it will not be confidential and will be shared with university officials who can help. More information, including confidential and exempt employee resources available for support and assistance, can be found at and

Absences from Class Due to Religious Observances and Extra-Curricular Activities
Faculty and instructors are expected to reasonably accommodate individual religious practices unless doing so would result in fundamental alteration of class objectives or undue hardship to the University’s legitimate business purposes. Such accommodations may include rescheduling an exam or giving a make-up exam, allowing a presentation to be made on a different date or assigning the student appropriate make-up work that is intrinsically no more difficult than the original assignment. Faculty and instructors are strongly encouraged to allow students to complete work missed due to participation in extra-curricular activities that enrich their experience, support their scholarly development, and benefit the university community. Examples include participation in scholarly presentations, performing arts, and intercollegiate sports, when the participation is at the request of, or coordinated by, a University official. Students should be encouraged to review the course syllabus at the beginning of the semester for potential conflicts and promptly notify their instructor of any anticipated accommodation needs. Students are responsible for making arrangements in advance to make up missed work.

Information for Students with Disabilities
The University of Connecticut is committed to protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities and assuring that the learning environment is accessible. If you anticipate or experience physical or academic barriers based on disability or pregnancy, please let me know immediately so that we can discuss options. Students who require accommodations should contact the Center for Students with Disabilities, Wilbur Cross Building Room 204, (860) 486-2020  or