Research Experience for Undergraduates:
Communicating in the Sciences

The Office of University Writing has developed a “Communicating in the Sciences” unit that can be integrated into REUs or adapted for other grants or purposes. Focused on improving the clarity and effectiveness of written, visual, and oral communication, the unit has been shown to increase student confidence in their ability to communicate in a variety of forms and to different audiences. Through systematic attention to analyzing and adapting to different rhetorical situations (including variations in purposes, genres, and audiences), the unit provides a “broad deliverable” as students learn strategies that let them continue to improve their communication skills and better recognize what it means to “write like a scientist.”

Though adjustable, the current curriculum has students meeting two times a week for a total of three hours to work on a series of communication tasks, including: drafting and peer response in different genres; generating and delivering short oral presentations; creating a scientific poster using appropriate visual design principles; composing a series of reflections on their experiences and learning; developing a literature review relevant to the work they are doing in their lab setting; and writing a short research highlight suitable for submission to Auburn University Journal of Undergraduate Scholarship (AUJUS). Students are also introduced to ePortfolios and shown how the various documents they have completed might be incorporated into an ePortfolio to represent the learning experience of the REU. The unit includes an assessment plan utilizing pre- and post-tests of the Miller-Daly Writing Apprehension Test (MDWAT) and the Personal Report of Public Speaking Anxiety (PRPSA), a rubric-based assessment of the final written and oral products, and a student satisfaction survey all of which are compiled and analyzed by the Office of University Writing for the Primary Investigator.

If you are interested in learning more about how this unit was incorporated into the Biosystems Engineering REU led by Sushil Adhikari or if you would like to discuss incorporating this curriculum into a grant proposal or other program, please contact Dr. Margaret Marshall, Director of University Writing, at 334-844-7474 or