Building momentum for bringing engineering to popular audiences through writing

Build community, support and motivation while engaging in constructive peer review & improving your public communication skills: Engineers Writing for Public Audiences offers UVA Engineering graduate students and postdocs a consistent supportive community that harnesses group goals, constructive feedback and targeted development to increase productivity and confidence in writing technical content for popular audiences.


Engineers Writing for Public Audiences is a student driven initiative that forms groups of 4-10 (usually 5-7) graduate students and post docs that meet weekly for 1.5-hour meetings where they set and track group goals, offer feedback on one another’s writing, and learn about communicating with public audiences through writing. 

Group members are expected to participate weekly for at least 1 semester but are encouraged to continue with the group for multiple semesters.

Current EWPA meeting time:

Tuesdays 12-1:30pm

  • How it works

    Goal Setting

    A major component of the group is group goal setting. It is key motivator for productivity. Early in the semester, the group decides on and records group goals- a particular number of submission for the semester, average number of hours writing per week, percentage of meeting attendance, etc. At each meeting, group members have an opportunity to check in and track group progress on the semester goals.

     

    Meetings

    Each group meets weekly for 1.5 hours in a conference room setting. About 80% of meetings are for discussion, goal setting and review, while 20% of meetings are devoted to development sessions (workshops, speakers, etc.). Members sign up to present their work for review. Each group conducts 1 to 2 reviews per meeting.

    Sample Meeting Structure:

    Recap of the week's progress (2 minutes/member)

    Review 1 (20 minutes)

    Break/discussion (10 minutes)

    Review 2 (20 minutes)

    Goals/Plans for the next week ( 2 minutes/member)

    During the review, the presenter puts their work (writing, presentation, or poster) up on the screen and gives a quick introduction to the work and what kind of feedback would be helpful (thinking about the clarity of the language, strength of the hook, etc.). Then they present the work to the group (often reading their writing aloud paragraph by paragraph) and the group offers verbal feedback while the presenter asks and answers questions, takes notes and revises with the help of the group. 

     

    Development Sessions

    Development sessions (typically 2-4 a semester) include workshops and speakers related to the group's goals. These sessions may be for the group only, open events sponsored by the group for Engineering grad students or UVA grad students more widley or the group's attendance at existing events.

  • How to join

    Applications to join the group are available each semester. Prospective members are encouraged to check the announcements on this page for current applications. Students and postdocs can also form their own groups. If you have a group of 5-10 students who can meet at the same time each week and would like to form a new group, email gradwritinglab@virginia.edu.

  • FAQs

    How do I get my work reviewed?

    Once you have joined a group, you will be given access to your group's calendar. To get your work reviewed, just sign up for a review slot on the calendar. Many groups negotiate the calendar, plan some slots in advance and leave some open for last minute needs. Before your review, you should also fill out the prereview info form (see your introductory email) about your work. On the day of your review, be ready to digitally display your work in your meeting room. For most rooms this means bringing your work on a laptop that can hook up to the presentation screen.

    What do I do on the day of my review?

    Before your review, you should also fill out the prereview info form (see your introductory email) about your work. On the day of your review, be ready to digitally display your work in your meeting room. For most rooms this means bringing your work on a laptop that can hook up to the presentation screen. Be prepared with a 1 to 2 sentence introduction to the work. This should include a working title, explanation of the intended audience (often a specific publication or context), what the plans are for the paper after the meeting (keep writing/revising, submit), the stage you are in (outline, rough draft, last looks) and the specific type of feedback you want from the group (clarity, hook, language, etc.). When you get to your review time, display your work on the screen large enough for everyone to see. If you have a document, enable line numbers to make it easy to reference parts of your work. Then introduce your work and explain the type of feedback that would be most helpful for you. Do not be afraid to direct your review. You might be in the earlier stages of the work for instance and not want feedback to consider grammar or small errors because you are still organizing ideas. You can and should say this to your group. Depending on the type of work and the type of feedback, how you present your work may vary. During your review, you can make changes to your document, take notes and discuss the work with your group. You may find it helpful to have another group member take back up notes for your. It is common to discuss and work through revisions of particular sentences, but taking notes on larger scale changes such as reordering paragraphs or refocusing sections may also be useful. 

    Does it have to be a particular type of writing?

    This group focuses on engineering writing for public or popular audiences. As long as your work focuses on this, you can bring it. This includes op-eds, policy documents, memos, blog posts, magazine articles, news articles, etc. Be sure to give the group a brief idea of your audience and context at the start of your review so they can give you useful feedback.

    Can I just come on days when my work is being reviewed?

    No. The group is more than just getting your work reviewed. It is a community that works together toward common goals. Members rely on one another for feedback and support and the group relies on all of its members to reach its goals. It is expected that members will make the weekly meetings part of their schedule and attend each week. The group only works when the group members are involved and committed to attending.

    My work is too messy/unfinished/confusing to bring to review, but I already signed up. Should I cancel?

    Probably not, but maybe. If you do not have anything to show at all or do not think you have anything that could benefit from feedback, you should probably email or message your group (as much in advance as possible) and see if someone else has work they can bring. If you have work that the group has not seen or a version of the work that the group has not seen but you are just concerned that it is not finished or polished, then you should probably bring it. It is often easier to make changes to something we feel is messy or unfinished or just partly written than to something we feel is done or almost done. Reviews of early stages of work can sometimes be the most helpful. Your group can help you work through the big picture of your work and help you work through your next steps. 

    I submitted an application. Now what?

    After your application has been received, you will be placed in a group or on a wait list. Once you are placed in a group, you will received an email with information inviting you to the group, including the group meeting location. These emails may not go out until after the priority deadline has passed. If you indicated that you cannot attend meetings at the provided times, your application may be kept on file that semester in case a new group that fits your schedule is started. If you have questions concerning your application or placement, you can email gradwritinglab@virginia.edu.

    I cannot make any of the times listed. What can I do?

    The times listed are times that we expect to have groups running and have space to hold them. If you cannot make these times, you are encouraged to do 2 things. 1) Fill out an application to register your interest and schedule. Be sure to indicate times that do work for you and use the comments box to be more specific if needed. It is possible that in the future we might be able to add more groups, but will only be able to if we have enough interested members who can meet at the same time. Filling out an application is the best way to show your interest. 2) Identify other potential members who can meet at the same time. Groups can be started because a group of students are able to identify a time and place that works. If you can get a group of at least 5 students who are committed to starting a group and can meet at the same time each week, email gradwritinglab@virginia.edu for help starting a new group. Note that you should also be willing to facilitate the group.

    I haven't really done this before. How can I give good feedback?

    The process is new for most people and it takes practice to get used to it and to get better at. The more you participate in a feedback oriented group (this group or one of our PRGs), the more practice you will get. Sometimes it is helpful to think about what makes feedback helpful for you. Being only positive doesn't usefully help improve a paper. However, if you see something good, do point it out. We need to know what is working just as much as we need to know what is not working. Be specific with your feedback, reference specific elements of the document such as sentences or line numbers. You can state your thought process or reaction. Even if you are not a subject matter expect, you can be an expert outside reader. How the information comes across is important. You can be a test of what was conveyed. Focus on what the person asked for. If they asked for organizational help, target your comments towards organization rather than typos. Try to hit the what, why and how. What is the issue you see? Why is it an issue? How might the person go about resolving the issue or improving the document. Being specific with what you see and including specific examples from the text can help connect with concrete steps and put you feedback in context. Explain why this is important. For instance, you might point out that a sentence in the middle of the paragraph seems to be a really important point, but it is getting lost there. By moving it to the end of the paragraph, the idea might be better highlighted. Be specific is your suggestions, offer concrete examples and provide options where possible. 

    My group members are just students like me. Can they really help me?

    Yes! Everyone has different strengths, access to different resources, and different experiences. Some of your group members may give great feedback on organization and others may be excellent at understanding and explaining grammar or conventions. By involving a group in the review of your work, you are able to draw on a range of perspectives and expertise. Seeing multiple perspectives is critical when sharing work with broad audiences. You will be able to see how your work reaches different audiences and glean tips and tricks from other writers. You will also be able to learn from other reviews and see how other people construct their work, which will ultimately make you a stronger writer and presenter.

    Can I bring a friend?

    Yes! Most of our groups are happy to welcome guests or observers. You should probably run it by your group first. If your friend is attending to be an additional reviewer for your review than this is great. If they want to find out how the groups work, great. If they find they like the group, talk to your facilitator about being added as a regular member. They will probably need to fill out the current application so their contact information is on file.

     

Meet our Graduate Student Leaders

  • Katelyn Stenger

    Katelyn Stenger

    PhD Student, CEE | EWPA Graduate Student Leader, WriteHere! Leader


    Katelyn Stenger is the founding graduate student leader of Engineers Writing for Public Audiences. She also leads WriteHere sessions to catalyze writing for engineering students. She is a PhD student in Civil & Enviornmental Engineering focused on the intersection of behavioral science and sustainable systems. LinkedIn

  • Online Resources

    The Graduate Writing Lab has compiled a selection of online resources relevant to the writing and communication needs of UVA Engineering graduate students.

    View Online Resources
  • Get Involved

    The Graduate Writing Lab provides a number of opportunities for faculty, post docs, and graduate students to get involved. Those with research or grant writing experience might considering being on a panel or leading a workshop. Future opportunities may exist for assisting with research projects, text cleaning, text analysis, qualitative coding, resource development, consultant training and more. See our current opportunities including position announcements by following the link below.

    See Current Opportunities