Carnegie Mellon University

In your professional life, you may often have to present technical data to non-expert audiences such as managers, clients, politicians, or members of the general public. This workshop teaches you principles for creating graphs and tables that non-experts can understand. You will learn to think of your data as a story that needs to capture the audience's attention, and you will be introduced to strategies for minimizing distractions to this story so audiences can quickly grasp your main point.

Have you ever sat through a tedious or confusing PowerPoint presentation? This workshop will help you create effective PowerPoint presentations that present your research in a clear and compelling way. We will introduce innovative research on designing visually effective slides that increase audience engagement. We will also practice constructing and revising PowerPoint slides, and discuss other strategies for organizing and delivering your PowerPoint presentation.  This popular workshop is appropriate for students at all levels of study, in the sciences and humanities.

This workshop provides advice on designing effective scientific research posters.  We will teach you some basic – but effective – visual design principles to create a compelling and memorable research poster.  This workshop will help you create a persuasive visual "story" or narrative about your research project and findings. We will also discuss and critique several strong and weak examples of scientific posters.

This workshop covers some common mistakes students make when communicating with their professors and potential employers.  We will discuss "right" and "wrong" ways to email or speak to your professors about sensitive issues such as missed classes, difficulties understanding course material, or grading concerns.  We also touch on some strategies for communicating with potential employers about job inquiries. This workshop will be particularly useful for freshmen and sophomore undergraduates, international students, or anyone concerned about how they are perceived based on their emails.

If you have ever been told that your writing is “choppy” or does not have any “flow,” you will benefit from this workshop. This workshop teaches you a simple – but effective – principle for improving the logical flow between sentences and paragraphs, called the Known/New Contract. This crucial rhetorical principle will help an audience follow the progression of your ideas and arguments, in both the sciences and humanities. As the subject matter you are writing about grows in complexity, following the Known/New Contract becomes increasingly important.

This workshop will teach you four steps that make the case for why your research is an essential contribution to the field. These four “moves” turn your research into a compelling narrative and highlight the importance and innovation of your work, especially when communicating to a non-specialist audience. These well-established moves can help you structure the abstract, introduction and literature review of journal articles and papers, in both the sciences and humanities. They can also be applied in various other contexts, including conference presentations, application materials, and grant proposals.

This workshop is typically given in individual classes to help students understand the conventions of their academic or professional discipline.  We go over a few general conventions for writing about research and then look at both strong and weak excerpts that paraphrase, quote, or summarize other research.  The workshop goal is to help students develop an understanding of what constitutes effective writing in this situation.

Grammar handbooks offer dozens of complex punctuation rules. However, if we approach punctuation from an information management perspective, we can distill these rules into a handful of simple principles that are easy to apply to your writing. This workshop will teach you how to correctly and effectively use three crucial punctuation tools: commas, semicolons, and colons. This practical grammar knowledge will help you write clearly so readers can easily understand your writing. No prior grammar knowledge necessary!

Have you ever been told that your writing is too wordy?  Concision is a core principle of effective communication. Writing that clearly and directly emphasizes the bottom line helps readers easily and efficiently understand your main point. This workshop offers several simple and effective strategies to improve the concision and clarity of your writing.

The strategies learned are appropriate for writing in STEM and the humanities.

Teamwork is central to professional life, but most students don't know how to manage a team project so it flows smoothly. This workshop will teach you how to create a teamwork infrastructure that will help you avoid the most common team problems. You will learn strategies for structuring your collaboration, especially on group documents. This workshop will also cover effective strategies for talking with your teammates when problems do occur. The advice in this workshop is based on Dr. Wolfe's research interviewing hundreds of students and professionals about their team experiences and practices.
Even if you do everything “right” on a team project, you can still encounter difficult people and difficult situations.  This workshop teaches you to confront difficult team situations in a way that is most likely to give you positive results.  You will learn strategies for confronting dismissive or aggressive teammates, how to respond to teammates who produce poor quality work, and how to advocate for a particular role on a project. We will cover both what to say and what not to say in tense situations.

This workshop is typically given in individual classes to help students understand the conventions of their academic or professional discipline. We go over the main sections of a technical report—Abstracts, Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion—and then look at both strong and weak examples of technical reports in a given field to develop an understanding of what constitutes effective writing in this situation.

The job application cover letter is your first impression on a potential employer. As a result, this high stakes document is often very difficult and stressful to write. This workshop covers five tips to writing a cover letter that persuades employers you are the ideal candidate for the position. We will go over several examples, and you can learn words and phrases to construct an effective cover letter.

The graduate school application essay requires you to pitch your candidacy to a small number of faculty members who read through hundreds of other essays. This workshop will provide writing strategies on how to craft an effective application essay. You will gain insight into your audience and learn how to show these busy readers that you are a good fit for the program and can contribute meaningfully to the their department. The instruction from this workshop can be applied to other professional materials, such as research statements and cover letters.