Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Earth Sciences


Type Tied Level 4 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham
Tied to F644
Tied to FGC0


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The overall aim is to develop writing and oral presentation skills for communicating science effectively. These skills are absolutely essential for a wide range of science careers, across industry and academia.
  • The first specific aim is to develop a clearer and more effective writing style, which can be easily understood. A good writing style is necessary for all types of scientific document.
  • The second aim is learn how best to write critical scientific summaries, journal papers, press releases, and grant proposals. Writing exercises will be based initially on presentations (with associated background reading of linked papers) by external speakers, and then on a journal article related to the student’s own research.
  • A third aim is to give more effective oral presentations (talks). This will include learning from oral presentations by external speakers, and advice from the course team.
  • The final aim is to be able to critically assess and summarise new cutting-edge scientific topics, through presentations by external speakers in department seminars.


  • The first part of the course will focus on developing a more effective writing style. This will be done through a combination of themed workshops, and feedback on writing assignments.
  • Writing assignments (e.g. critical scientific summaries) will be linked initially to science presented by external speakers within departmental seminars, and to associated background reading of linked papers.
  • These seminars will expose students to a wide range of cutting-edge science, and help to develop skills in understanding and critically evaluating science in new topics.
  • Informal analysis of departmental seminars, and a workshop on giving talks, will develop more effective oral presentation skills.
  • The second part of the course will develop skills in writing different types of scientific document, such as press releases, journal articles, and funding proposals. Press releases will be linked to material presented by external speaks in department seminars. The final writing exercise will set out to improve a journal article, and future funding proposal, based on the student’s own recent research.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Why scientific writing and oral presentation skills matters for a wide range of careers.
  • How to write more effectively.
  • How to give more effective scientific talks.
  • How to write scientific papers, press releases, and funding proposals.
  • Departmental seminars will also expose students to a wider range of cutting-edge science.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • The course will seek to improve basic writing and oral presenting skills.
  • Skills will also be developed in writing different types of scientific document, such as press releases, papers and funding proposals.
  • Skills in critical analysis of new science will be gained via summaries of work presented by external speakers, and reading of linked papers.
Key Skills:
  • More effective scientific writing (including punctuation, structure and brevity).
  • More effective presentation skills; including how to prepare and deliver talks.
  • Skills in critically analysing and summarising new scientific topics, via external speakers and linked background reading.
  • Writing press releases, and knowledge of wider issues around working with the media.
  • How to write a well-structured scientific paper, including the need for clear messages.
  • Skills in writing funding proposals, including skills in identifying new and important scientific questions and how to tackle them.
  • Time management and working to deadlines.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • More effective writing skills will be developed through themed workshops, linked to text books on writing, and a series of short scientific writing exercises.
  • Some of the writing exercises will be linked to talks by external speakers in department seminars and linked papers, which will also expose students to new topics in cutting-edge science.
  • The first (formative) assessment aims to develop an effective basic writing style. It will involve critically analysing and summarising a new topic presented by an external speaker, and this will involve both the presentation and a background reading list of papers.
  • The second (summative) exercise will involve a press release on a topic presented by a second external department seminar speaker. The student will also read more widely on the presentation topic. This will help to develop skills and knowledge in dealing with the media.
  • A final (summative) exercise will have two parts with equal weight. First, it will involve a scientific journal article on the student’s own research. This exercise may start with a draft EPSL journal paper that has previously submitted for their Level 4 research project, which will be improved further. Second, a funding proposal will be written for further research, which may be linked to the student’s previous research project.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Workshops (including staff presentations, and small writing exercises). These workshops will follow after designated department seminars. 10 1 per week. 4 workshops in Term 1 and 6 workshops in Term 2 1 hour 10
Background reading (e.g. textbooks on scientific writing, or papers related to speakers) and preparation for workshops. 60
Attending Department Seminars given by external speakers (6 of the speakers will be designated). 6 1 per term. 3 in Term 1 and 3 in Term 2 1 hour 6
Journal article and funding proposal; preparation and writing. 124
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Continuous Assessment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Revised journal article from student’s own research 34%
Funding proposal for further research 33%
IPress release linked to external speaker presentation 33%

Formative Assessment:

(1) Short summary and critical analysis of a new science topic presented by an external speakers at the department seminar (from choice of designated seminars in term 1).

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University