A sad tale of missing information? Or simply a backward trend in our tertiary education?

Well, after just 2 days of an intensive course in science communication I feel that I have been working backwards through my education rather than moving forwards from where I last stopped… and why? Because the things I have studied in these last two days I should have studied back in first year science – or for any degree really.

So first, an essay writing session entitled “sproggle and splurge” which took me back to my primary school days of commas, apostrophes, and other grammatical technicalities. For years we go through our university days being corrected and marked down for errors that we have not been instructed about since childhood… Shouldn’t this be an important lesson for first year students so that writing assignments are of a higher quality right from the outset? It doesn’t need to take long; just a few hours can go a long way. And a short video tutorial, which students may or may not watch, and most likely won’t take much stock of, is probably not the most effective method of instruction. Especially for something that students and educators alike get confused about.

In addition, this was a great little session about referencing which is not only highly important for a science writer, but also can be the most confusing aspect of any paper. Not only are there multiple different techniques, but each faculty, topic, and sometimes lecturer is looking for something different. And as stated by one of my fellow class members, if missing a single comma can take 10 marks off your total score – you’re going to want to pay attention to every little comma, quotation mark and full stop you put in that pesky little list! Then you move out into the real world, and every journal or periodical wants something different to the next. And yet there we were as postgraduates undergoing our first in-depth discussion of what, where, and why.                                   Thank you Julia Miller!

So next on the menu… library skills and research tools! There I was thinking I’m sure I will know all of this, I’ve been searching the library database and the internet for years and years, I know how to look something up. But how many of us have spent years fishing through journal article after journal article, reading hundreds of papers that eventually prove to have no credibility or no worth to the current assignment? How many hours have we spent searching online for that all-important website or conference proceeding in an absolute sea of websites, references, texts, papers, rubbish and more! All it took was a few hours, some keyword pointers, the right search engine or database search, and a way to make it all come to you… Google reader you rock!!!              Thank you Louise Gillis!

The ultimate lesson so far…? Communicating science involves even the most basic fundamentals to succeed. These are the building blocks on which good news and great writing is built.

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3 Comments

  1. It looks like you just supplely summarised what happened in the last two days, but the content is not simple at all…you said what I want to say, I thought I know how to SEARCH, but Louise Gillis’s lecture let me realize I am an idiot in searching…I feel like I was born in 100 BC…out of date too much…I started to freak out, I am afraid I would fail this course…when I back to home, I poured myself whole bottle of wine to let myself calm down…Kidding…(half a bottle actually). Then I suddenly realized it is good to know you don’t know when you are young enough to learn something, it is never too late to learn new things…So, my confidence comes back…and communicating science I am ready to accept your challenge.

  2. I think that there is an assumption here that we all have learnt these skills in high school before we enter the university. Thus, we all started our first year uni without this type of courses. The fact is we are all different in our high school education. I do agree that they should have had a short compulsory course for the first year student.

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