As Marcus’ honours year supervisor, I went through his thesis drafts and oral presentations to fine-tune the way in which facts and ideas were communicated. Happily Marcus had a decent grasp of effective writing and while edits were still required, we spent more time on ideas and discussions. His writing skill lessened his thesis burden considerably – just as well since he had to change his field site late in the year!
Now a graduate student, Marcus has TA-ed in modules I coordinate, LSM1103 Biodiversity and LSM2251 Ecology and the Environment. The fundamentals of writing are addressed in these modules with TAs marking twelve essays (1st years) and four reports (2nd years) to provide comprehensive feedback with detailed notes about improving writing. We discuss ideas during the post-mortem and I asked Marcus if NM2220 was a suitable recommendation as he had cited it a few times during our discussions about his thesis. After all that marking, he is ready to recommend the module and this will be forwarded to the 1st and 2nd years in our modules.
Posts by students for students can be viewed in the category students speak – N. Sivasothi
Marcus Chua in his Halloween costume, 2009:
“A 10,000 word essay/assignment/thesis!”
In a recent blog entry, NUS Provost Tan Eng Chye highlighted the importance of English language proficiency and mulled over the decision to include compulsory communication modules in the undergraduate curriculum. You need not wait for that to become a reality, for Environmental Biology undergraduates, like all others in NUS, have the option of taking writing courses that may meet their needs. I highlight a module I took which I feel was very helpful to me in particular.
NM2220 Introduction to Media Writing is a basic writing module offered by the Department of Communications and New Media, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences that teaches students the foundation of writing for new and mass media. The skills taught are can be applied to everyday writing and communication. The course is taught by current or former journalists, editors or public relations practitioners and class activities and assignments consist of targeted writing exercises.
Before taking the course, I thought that good writing involved big words and long, complex sentences. The more, the bigger, the better! How wrong was I.
I took the module in my final year as an undergraduate in NUS and found it immensely useful, and it taught me how to adapt my writing for various situations. Some of the most useful tips were keeping writing simple for clear communication and how to write punchy sentences. There and then it hit me that using complex words might appear impressive to me, but it usually confuses the reader and impedes communication. The AP (Associated Press) style taught also has direct relevance to science writing conventions, e.g. when to write or spell numbers and correct punctuation.
All these newly acquired skills culminated in my thesis, which was a departure from most of my previous reports. Even after graduation, the lessons I learnt came in very useful for formal reports, various applications and when writing and editing the Singapore Biodiversity encyclopedia.
Since this is the time when most students would start planning their time tables for the upcoming semester, I would definitely recommend the course to all undergraduates.