A 4 day intensive English language refresher for graduate engineering writing

A 4-day intensive focusing on writing topics relevant to engineering graduate students whose first language is not English

Each day of the 4-day intensive includes two workshops and two focused editing sessions as well as structured writing and reflection time. Students who complete the entire camp will earn a certificate of completion. Each day is expected to run all day, 9am-4pm. Participants should plan to attend all 4 days.

Topics covered include 

  • articles
  • verb tense
  • sentence structure
  • summarizing & paraphrasing
  • logic/cohesion/flow
  • word choice/vocabulary

These workshops are aimed at graduate students with advanced English proficiency but who still need a refresher in these areas to continue to refine their engineering and research writing. Additional tools and resources may also be discussed such as CoCA, AntConc, or Scrivener. Participants will devote a few hours each day to working on their own piece of research writing (you must be actively working on something to attend). Most participants will likely be in the second or higher year of their program. The camp does not include instruction on how to write/structure a research article or other specific type of writing.

The camp ran January 7-10th, 2019, before the start of the Spring semester. It may run annually at similar times in the future.

If you missed the camp, you can still check out our array of ESL resources on our collab site. Sign up for access here.

Camp design and materials have been adapted from materials from Writing Services, University of Guelph and Lenore Latta.

  • Writing Sample Submission Details

    As part of the application, you are asked to submit a writing sample.

    We use the writing sample

    • to get an idea of where everyone is at with their writing and
    • in some workshop and editing ativities

    We may use small parts of the writing samples in workshop presentations as example or for the group to practice with. We might also provide targeted feedback on the writing sample to guide you in certain editing activities.



    To make the greatest use of your writing sample, follow the following guidelines:

    • 200-350 words
      • This gives us enough to work with but not too much
      • It's OK if this is just part of a larger piece (like the start of your intro for instance)
    • Recently written by you without help from others
      • (not a published paper and not something you wrote 6 years ago)
    • Not edited by another person, especially for grammar
      • If we do an activity highlighting all of the article errors, it won't be helpful if someone else has already fixed all of these for you.
    • Spelled checked/grammar checked as you usually would
    • Write it as best you can on your own.
      • This way you get an idea of what you can do well on your own and where your efforts might be targeted to continue improving.



    It's probably best to submit something similar to the type of writing you'll be working on- likely engineering or research writing. It can be part of a larger document (the first page of your introduction, the significance section of your proposal) or something stand alone (a conference abstract) that you are already writing or you can write something new (see below for ideas).

    Try to

    • keep it coherent
      • ex. the first part of a section is likely easier to follow than if you took the middle of a paper
    • focus on engineering/research or something related to graduate study
    • choose something written in complete sentences and paragraphs (not a table of results)
    • stay in the word range (200-350 words)


    Examples of what you might submit:

    • 1st page of an introduction
    • early draft of the first part of the significance section of a proposal
    • a conference or paper abstract
    • section of a research paper you're working on
    • section of a dissertation or thesis chapter


    Example of what not to submit:

    • CV or resume
      • why: it's not in sentence/paragraphs
    • an entire masters thesis
      • why: it's too long
    • a published coauthored paper
      • why: it's probably had substantial editing and revision by someone else
    • an essay you wrote in highschool
      • why: it's probably too old
    • poetry
      • why: it's not sentences/paragraphs and is not likely the type of writing we'll be working on
    • something someone else wrote
      • why: you didn't write it


    Want to submit something new? Try one of these topics.

    If you're not sure you have something to submit, consider writing 200-350 words on one of the following topics:

    • What research are you currently working on?
    • Summarize what you've worked on this week
    • Summarize your contributions to one research project you've worked on
    • Summarize the significance of one study you worked on
    • What do you hope to accomplish with your research in the future?
    • Why did you go into your field of study?
    • What 1-4 things have you accomplished in the last month?
    • What gradschool or research mishap or failure have you learned from the most?
    • Explain one time when things went wrong in gradschool but it turned out to be good
    • Explain your motivation for your current work
    • Summarize the limitations of a project you are working on
    • Summarize a research gap you are trying to fill


  • Who should apply

    The camp is designed for UVA Engineering graduate students and postdocs who are actively writing engineering/research related documents and whose first language is not English. However, if there is space UVA Engineering professional and research staff and faculty in similar situations may also be able to participate.

    To apply, participants should be

    • UVA Engineering graduate students, postdocs, faculty or staff
    • actively working on a piece of graduate school and/or engineering writing during the camp
    • able to upload a 200-350 word current writing sample at the time of application (see writing sample submission details)
    • able to attend all four days of the intensive


    Participants will spend part of the time each day working on something they are already writing. Most participants will likely be 2nd year or higher students who have something they are writing. 

    The camp focuses on providing refreshers to help participants refine written academic and scholarly English language skills in areas that advanced users of English are often still making progress on during graduate school.

    The camp is not appropriate for those seeking basic, remedial or lower developmental English language instruction, work on English for other purposes or work on spoken English language concerns.