Reading and Summarizing Research (STEM)


This module is offered in two versions, one for Social Sciences/Business/Education and the other for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields. The focus is on using the typical organization of U.S. research writing to understand and take notes. We will also focus on common concerns for second-language writers: paraphrasing, quotation, and appropriate source-use practices; use of reporting verbs and noun clause structure; and controlling the strength of claims. Students work with readings they have selected from their course/dissertation research.


No textbook: students should bring 3-5 research papers (journal articles) in their field as mentor texts.

Recommended books for further reading (choose the one closest to your field):

  • Robert Irish, Writing in Engineering: A Brief Guide (Oxford, 2015)
  • Mika & Danielle LaVaque-Manty, Writing in Political Science: A Brief Guide (Oxford, 2015)
  • Leslie Ann Roldan & Mary-Lou Purdue, Writing in Biology: A Brief Guide (Oxford, 2016)
  • Lynn Smith-Lovin and Cary Moskovitz, Writing in Sociology: A Brief Guide (Oxford, 2016)
  • Shan-Estelle Brown, Writing in Anthropology: A Brief Guide (Oxford, 2016)

Readings and Tasks: Science, Technology, & Engineering Fields

Week In preparation In class
1: The RP Genre

Collect a mini corpus of 3-5 research articles in your field; bring the articles to class for analysis

Read: How to read and understand a scientific research article

Review the IMRAD structure

Discuss how to read scientific articles efficiently

How do scientists and engineers read research (here’s some actual advice)?

2: Reading and notetaking

Read: The Science of Scientific Writing

Can you find examples of good (or bad) writing in your corpus?

Annotate one article that you plan to summarize and write a memo

(Optionally, here is a model of the reading process discussed in week 1)

Note-taking techniques.

Meta-cognitive reading strategies (Mokhtari & Reichard, 2002)

Outlining a text

Identifying cohesive language and other metadiscourse (see handout)

3: Paraphrasing

Read about plagiarism and paraphrasing

Outline your article. Take notes.

Skim through this useful list of academic phrases for referring to sources

Principles of source use

Paraphrasing practice with class text

Noun clauses

Reporting verbs

4: Summary writing Draft a 1-2 paragraph summary of your article

Principles of a good summary

Peer review summaries in groups

Misc grammar issues and wrap up


Creative Commons License
This Graduate Communication Support Initiative module was designed by Nigel Caplan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This version: 12/29/16


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