GCAC Workshop Descriptions

​​​​​​T​​hese are the workshops that GCAC offers on an ongoing basis; if we aren’t offering a particular​ workshop or workshop series t​his term​, please check back i​​n a future term. As always, signing up for our listserv​ is the best way to find out what we are offering each week.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Developing & Pitching a Research Project: An Overview of the Workshop Series

​The four workshops described below are designed for graduate students who are preparing to write, or who are in the process of writing, either a thesis or grant proposal. This workshop series is unlike our other series in two ways: all of the workshops will be taught by the same instructor, and the workshops will build on one another in order to allow students to get an overview of the proposal preparation process. Each workshop will function both independently and as part of the sequence, and students are welcome to come to any or all of the workshops. The material covered in each workshop is described below.

Workshop 1: Writing a Thesis or Grant Proposal

Graduate students write many proposals – federal grant proposals, travel grant proposals, thesis proposals – and every proposal has a potentially significant impact on a student’s ability to carry out specific research. The introductory workshop in this series provides an overview of proposal writing designed to get students thinking about the demands of, and the predictable variations in, this important genre of writing. We will examine the similarities and differences between thesis and grant proposals, consider the main questions that most proposals must answer, and see examples of answers to those questions in successful proposals. We will also consider common pitfalls in proposal writing, and strategies for getting started on writing a proposal.

Workshop 2: Strategies for Clarifying and Organizing Your Ideas Before You Write

This workshop is designed to help you clarify in your own mind the content and structure of your next proposal BEFORE you begin to write. Participants will be introduced to a range of strategies for organizing their ideas, and will be encouraged to consider which strategy works best given their own learning style and timeline. Drawing on techniques from classical rhetoric for developing and organizing ideas, the workshop will introduce strategies to help students investigate and organize their ideas at both the pre-writing and mid-writing stages. While most examples will be drawn from proposals, the material covered will also be relevant to research papers and theses.

Workshop 3: Writing a Literature Review that Demonstrates the Need for Your Research

Like research papers and theses, thesis and grant proposals require graduate students to situate their work within the context of other research in their field(s). A well constructed literature review will help you to clarify key points for your reader such as why your work needs to be done, how it is original, and why your proposed method is appropriate. In this workshop we will examine characteristics of both short and long literature reviews, common mistakes students make when reviewing research in their field, and strategies for increasing the effectiveness of literature reviews. The material covered will be relevant to the literature-review segments of proposals, research papers, and theses.

Workshop 4: Clear Thinking, Clear Writing: Communicating Clearly to Your target Audience(s)

Grant proposals require you to communicate a lot of information, in a limited space, to multiple audiences, without ambiguity. Such communication demands clear writing and an active awareness of the needs of both specialist and generalist readers. In this workshop we will examine some of the most common stylistic and grammatical mistakes found in proposals, and consider the ways in which strategic proofreading can help you to identify not only the errors in your writing but also the errors in your logic.​​

​​​​​​​​​Academic Writing for Non-Native Speakers of English: An Overview of the Workshop Series​

​This series of three workshops will provide a brief introduction to academic writing at the graduate level for non-native speakers of English. The topics covered in the first and second workshops are derived from our Academic Writing 1: Focus on Fundamentals course; those in the third workshop are derived from our Academic Writing 2: Focus on Grammar course. If you have taken either of those courses, you’ll find that the corresponding workshops cover familiar ground. Everyone is welcome to attend, either to learn something new or to get a quick refresher on material covered in the past.

Workshop 1: Understanding Tone in Academic Writing

​For many new graduate students, writing in a sufficiently formal tone is a challenge. In this workshop, we will look at a collection of strategies designed to evaluate and adjust the level of formality of academic writing.

Workshop 2: Managing Transitions in Academic Writing

​Creating flow in academic writing is an important issue. Unfortunately, many novice writers try to create transitions with transition words alone rather than with clear links between sentences. In this workshop, we will look first at how to avoid overusing transition words and then at strategies for constructing coherent flow between sentences.

Workshop 3: Improving Grammatical Correctness in Academic Writing

​This workshop on grammatical correctness will focus on three issues that cause particular difficulties for non-native speakers of English: articles, pronoun reference, and punctuation. Throughout, we will look at the principles of sound writing, focusing on representative example sentences.

Listening & Speaking in Academic Settings​

The Listening and Speaking workshops in this series for non-native speakers of English draw from the Academic Conversation Skills (ACS) curriculum. These workshops are open both to students who have not taken the ACS course, as well as those who have taken it and would like to refresh their oral communication skills.

Workshop 1: Active Listening and Speaking in Academic Settings

This workshop aims to help students better understand and participate in academic conversations by focusing on the positive actions you can take both as a listener and as a speaker. Topics discussed include the following: How do you interrupt someone for clarification or further explanation? How can you change the topic? and How do you involve others if you’re leading a discussion?

Workshop 2:Strategies for Academic Vocabulary Acquisition

This workshop addresses problems non-native speakers of English often have with vocabulary knowledge. In this session, you’ll learn practical strategies for developing an active-thinking process that will facilitate your acquiring academic, as well as everyday, vocabulary through listening and reading.

Workshop 3:Active Listening and Note-Taking

In this workshop, we’ll consider key assumptions made about various learning situations, as well as dominant learning styles in North American universities, such as learning through one’s ears. The workshop also explores what it means to listen actively in academic situations (e.g. lectures, seminars, labs and tutorials), and discusses note-taking strategies that will help you get information down on paper, or onto your laptop, more efficiently.

Workshop 4: ​​Strategies for Clear Speaking

This workshop will touch upon techniques for making your oral delivery smoother and strategies to help your audiences comprehend your presentation content. Such strategies include making transitions between important parts of the presentation, using visual support material as a pronunciation aid and answering questions from your audience. The workshop will also discuss how to ask questions with clarity and confidence in a large group setting.​

Getting Through Graduate Work

Workshop 1: Writing a Thesis or Grant Proposal

Graduate students write many proposals – federal grant proposals, travel grant proposals, thesis proposals – and every proposal has a potentially significant impact on a student’s ability to carry out specific research. The introductory workshop in this series provides an overview of proposal writing designed to get students thinking about the demands of, and the predictable variations in, this important genre of writing. We will examine the similarities and differences between thesis and grant proposals, consider the main questions that most proposals must answer, and see examples of answers to those questions in successful proposals. We will also consider common pitfalls in proposal writing, and strategies for getting started on writing a proposal.

Workshop 2: Writing Literature Reviews

Whatever sort of writing you're doing at graduate school, in various writing tasks such as articles, course papers or the thesis chapter entitled 'Literature Review' you'll need to be able to review the literature of your field effectively. This workshop will explore this genre of academic writing, identify common pitfalls and examine strategies to maximize your lit review's effectiveness.

Workshop 3: Five Principles to Improve Your Academic Writing

If you've ever worried that your ideas aren't flowing together on paper, that your reader might not be getting your message the way that you intended or that your prose style isn't dynamic enough, this workshop is designed for you. In it, we will examine five principles which can improve your academic writing and help ensure that the expression of your research is as accomplished as the ideas behind it.​

Workshop 4: ​​Making the Most of Oral Presentations​

​Whether you are preparing for a graduate seminar, an academic conference, a job talk or a thesis defence, this workshop is designed to help you improve your oral presentation skills. Topics discussed will include overcoming nervousness, designing effective visual support and handling questions.

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Writing/Speaking in the Physical & ​Life Sciences

Thesis Writing in the Physical & Life Sciences

This workshop will give an overview of thesis writing in the physical and life sciences. Thesis writing is a unprecedented challenge in the life of a graduate student; the task of writing a full-length work based on one’s own research requires new and different skills. In this workshop, we will discuss the elements of a thesis, highlighting the specific challenges associated with each. We will also discuss approaches to productivity that can help during the thesis writing process.

Effective Use of Scientific Illustrations, Graphs, & Tables

It is said that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. This is nowhere more true than in the realm of scientific research, where clear graphics are needed to summarize complex data, communicate difficult concepts, and to enable you to use fewer words in your publications. With the help of good, bad and plain ugly examples from the literature, we will learn how to produce effective scientific illustrations and tables. We will also explore the essential process of coupling your illustrations to text. For this workshop, students are encouraged to bring along some of their real illustration problems for classroom discussion.

Maximizing Your Poster Presentations

In this workshop we will identify the goals and benefits of presenting ongoing research in poster form. We will identify strategies for effective poster design, learn to organize and write poster text, and learn how to use tables and other visuals to present results. This workshop will also provide strategies for effective oral presentation—organizing material to make the most effective use of limited presentation time, preparing physically for 'the day' and poster competition, speaking clearly and persuasively to an audience, and handling audience questions.

Writing Grant Proposals in the Sciences

This workshop is designed to help graduate students in the sciences write brief research proposals, such as those required for NSERC, OGS, and CIHR-type studentship applications. The tips and strategies that will be discussed are also useful for students interested in applying for postdoctoral fellowships and other research grant programs. As well, many of the basic concepts covered are applicable for dissertation proposals.

Editing Your Own Work Effectively

While everyone knows that they should leave time for editing, not everyone knows the best way to approach the task of editing. This workshop will offer concrete advice on improving​ the first draft of an academic paper. We will begin by discussing the need to clarify the different types of editing, before going on to some general strategies to improve the editing process.

Writing a Research Article: The Fundamentals

This workshop will explore fundamental strategies for writing research articles written in the IMRD format (Introduction – Methods – Results – Discussion). This course is designed to help graduate student writers engaged in experimental work by increasing their familiarity with the established forms of such articles. We will consider the objectives of the four sections, what “moves” are typically found in each and discuss how you can best reach your communicative goals.

Writing/Speaking in the Humanities & Social Sciences

Thesis Writing in the Humanities & Social Sciences

This workshop will give an overview of thesis writing in the humanities and social sciences. Thesis writing is a unprecedented challenge in the life of a graduate student; the task of writing a full-length work based on one’s own research requires new and different skills. In this workshop, we will discuss the elements of a thesis, highlighting the specific challenges associated with each. We will also discuss approaches to productivity that can help during the thesis writing process.

Mastering Punctuation & Why It Matters

The role of punctuation in constructing meaning is a very important, but often forgotten, element of academic writing. This workshop will examine how the effective and proper use of commas, semicolons, colons and other punctuation helps readers to understand the ideas you are trying to communicate.

Editing Your Own Work Effectively

While everyone knows that they should leave time for editing, not everyone knows the best way to approach the task of editing. This workshop will offer concrete advice on improving the first draft of an academic paper. We will begin by discussing the need to clarify the different types of editing, before going on to some general strategies to improve the editing process.

Preparing to Publish

Whether ready to publish or not, every graduate student benefits from thinking about the publishing process. In this workshop, we will discuss the basic genres of academic writing (e.g., journal articles, books, textbooks, book reviews) and outline the ins and outs of getting your work published. The focus will be on the information that all students should have as they think about the eventual publication of their work.​​

Metadiscourse: What It Is and How to Use It to Improve Your Academic Writing

​Because academic writing is often complex, expert writers must help readers negotiate their texts by going beyond the essentials of organizing material effectively and expressing it clearly. Metadiscourse is a key writing tool to help your audience grasp the ideas in your work. As opposed to 'content' information (i.e., what your research concerns) metadiscourse, by writing about your evolving text, guides readers in a way that both facilitates understanding and ensures that your work is read the way you intended. This workshop will loo​k at the various types of metadiscourse and consider how to best use it to improve your writing.

Writing Literature Reviews

Whatever sort of writing you'​re doing at graduate school, in various writing tasks such as articles, course papers or the thesis chapter entitled 'Literature Review' you'll need to be able to review the literature of your field effectively. This workshop will explore this genre of academic writing, identify common pitfalls and examine strategies to maximize your lit review's effectiveness.​

Making the Most of Oral Presentations

​Whether you are preparing for a graduate seminar, an academic conference, a job talk or a thesis defence, this workshop is designed to help you improve your oral presentation skills. Topics discussed will include overcoming nervousness, designing effective visual support and handling questions.

Using Outside Sources in Your Work

​Almost all graduate research and writing is built upon work that has come before. This workshop looks at how to best integrate the ideas of others into your work. Topics covered will include how to avoid plagiarism, the mechanics of paraphrasing, how to smoothly integrate quotations into your prose and how quote effectively and not lose your own “voice.”

Social Media & Scholarly Communication​

This workshop will discuss the way that graduate students and early career researchers can use social media to support their scholarly communication. As we all know, the writing process can be lonely and the publishing process can be puzzling. Many novice academic writers find themselves isolated—geographically or otherwise—and in need of like-minded communities. In this workshop, we will discuss the online places—blogs, Tumblrs, Twitter chats—that offer those sorts of communities, both academic writing communities and specific disciplinary communities.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls of Online Academic Communication

This workshop is designed to help non-native speakers of English recognize and avoid common pitfalls of online academic communication. Through this workshop, students will learn to engage in on-line academic communication with students, professors, and other scholars in a professional manner. The workshop focuses on helping students to understand the use of appropriate register and tone in emails and on-line postings, to discern when and how to use SMS language, (texting language) in academic messages, and to determine appropriate length, response and timing for on-line academic communication.