Poster Topical Area: Education & Teaching

Location: Auditorium

Poster Board Number: 153

P09-004 - A New Cross-Disciplinary Training Model for Graduate Science Students

Sunday, Jun 10
8:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Objectives: Graduate student training in writing tends to focus on discipline-specific products like proposals and journal articles and very little on writing for public and non-academic audiences. This is problematic for many reasons. First, ~80% of PhDs will work outside of academia and need to communicate to non-academic audiences. Furthermore, this traditional graduate training persists even though it is critical to engage the public in science to increase their scientific literacy and engagement in public policy. This project tests a new cross-disciplinary model for training graduate science students by incorporating rhetorical tenants from the beginning of their graduate training. This is needed to train nutritional scientists who can engage more confidently with multiple audiences.

Graduate students participated in 2 writing workshops held 2 weeks apart. The curriculum was based on 3 rhetorical tenants – habitual writing, frequent peer review and writing for multiple genres and multiple audiences. Participants completed pre- and post-workshop surveys that assessed confidence and rhetorical best practices as a scientist and a writer.

21 participants were at the 1st, 18 returned for the 2nd; all provided consent. Participants were mostly female (n=17, 81%), white (n=19, 90.5%), not Hispanic/Latino (n=18, 85.7%), Masters-level (n=13, 62%). There was a significant increase from baseline to post-workshops in intention to share multiple drafts of a single project (p=0.037), sharing work with a peer (p<0.01) and for maintaining a consistent writing routine (p<0.001). There was a significant increase from baseline to post-workshops for confidence as a scientist (p=0.003) and confidence as a writer (p<0.01).

Results suggest that adding rhetorically-informed tenants to graduate student training can increase their willingness to employ rhetorical tools such as habitual writing and frequent peer review and increase their confidence as a scientist and a writer. This is critical as more graduate students will work in non-academic jobs and will be required to communicate with the public and non-technical audiences. With much nutrition misinformation in the public realm, nutrition professionals need to confidently engage and communicate with multiple audiences.

Funding Source: National Science Foundation

CoAuthors: Jenna Morton-Aiken, PhD – University of Rhode Island; Al Scott – University of Rhode Island; Erin Harrington – University of Rhode Island; Caroline Gottschalk Druschke – University of Rhode Island; Nancy Karraker – University of Rhode Island; Scott McWilliams – University of Rhode Island; Nedra Reynolds – University of Rhode Island

Ingrid E. Lofgren

Associate Professor
University of Rhode Island
Kingston, Rhode Island