15.289 -- Communication Skills for Academics

Prof. JoAnne Yates
Office: E52-544, Phone: 253-7157, E-mail: jyates@mit.edu
Spring Term, 6 credits, H1 (course runs from Feb. 3 to March 17, 1999)
MW, 10:00-12:00, Room E52-598
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Course Description and Objectives
Who Should Take This Course
Practicing Skills, Receiving Feedback
Additional Readings
Week by Week Syllabus

Course Description and Objectives
Your success as an academic will depend heavily on your ability to communicateóto fellow researchers in your discipline, to colleagues in your department and university, to undergraduate and graduate students, and perhaps even to the public at large.  Communicating well in an academic setting depends not only on following the basic rules that govern all good communication (for example, tailoring the message to meet the needs of a specific audience), but also on adhering to the particular norms of academic genres.

The purpose of this course, then, is twofold.  First, the course will acquaint you with guidelines that will help you create well-crafted academic communication.  Second, it will give you the opportunity to practice your communication skills and to receive extensive feedback from your colleagues and from me.  You will write and/or revise an article manuscript or conference paper, present a conference paper or job talk, write a manuscript peer review, and engage in various other communication exercises.  The article and talk, which are the major assignments of the course, will be based on material from your own doctoral studies.

Who Should Take This Course
This course is for doctoral students in management or related fields.  It is best suited to students who have started on their own research, generally in their 2nd year or beyond, and who are beginning to think about the job market.  If you are a first year graduate student and would like to take this course, please schedule time to talk to me about whether the course is appropriate for you.

There are four graded requirements in this course, weighted as follows:
1. Written Assignment (conference paper, journal article, or grant proposal; with feedback and revision)     = 30%
2. Oral Presentation (conference presentation or job talk, with option to re-do)                                           = 30%
3. Manuscript review (for conference or journal)                                                                                        = 15%
4. Class Participation (including exercises)                                                                                                  = 25%

In addition, we will discuss and in some cases do exercises (either in class or out of class) around being interviewed (on the job market), teaching, doing research electronically, writing job letters and grant proposals, interviewing (for field work), and talking to the press.

Written and Oral Assignments: Your own research should serve as the basis for the first two assignments, if at all possible.  In fact, if you are currently preparing a journal article, conference paper, grant proposal, and/or job talk, you may use that work to fulfill assignments in this class.

Manuscript review: One of the tasks faced by most academics is reviewing manuscripts written by others for submission to a conference or journal. Learning how to write a constructive review is a key academic skill that we will discuss and that you will get an opportunity to practice.

Class Participation: Class attendance and participation are important because you will be giving each other feedback on your work, as well as doing short exercises in some classes. Because this course will be offered as an H1 course, it will last less than two months and will be over before MITís Spring Break (last class is March 17).  Please make every effort to attend all classes.

Practicing Skills, Receiving Feedback
As you will see from the attached class outline,  we will discuss several types or genres of academic communication during the course, from journal articles to job talks.  Much of the class time, however, will be devoted to giving you an opportunity to practice those genres and to give and receive feedback.  Each member of the class is expected to provide critical feedback on the work submitted by his/her classmates.

The text for this course is The Compleat Academic, edited by Mark P. Zanna and John M. Darley (New York:  McGraw-Hill, 1987).  It is available at the COOP.  Although we will only be reading selected portions of this text, the book contains an excellent description of how to manage a career in academia.

Other books that you might want to have in your library and that are available at the COOP and on reserve in Dewey Library include the following:

  1. Howard S. Becker, Writing for Social Scientists (University of Chicago Press, 1986).
  2. Beth Luey, Handbook for Academic Authors (Cambridge University Press, 1990).
  3. Barbara Gross Davis, Tools for Teaching (Jossey Bass, 1993).
  4. L.L. Cummings and Peter Frost, Publishing in the Organizational Sciences, 2nd ed. (Sage Publications, 1995).
Additional Readings for Reference
Copyright © 1999 Massachusetts Institute of Technology