Writing workshop with Dallas Murphy 2020


The ninth annual CHESS Advanced Writing Course, 15—17 June 2020, was far from typical.  COVID-19 forced us to conduct the workshop remotely.  I deeply missed my visit to Bergen and the Institute, normally a highpoint of my year.  The early sessions were marred by sound-level difficulties, but once overcome, we proceeded as close to normally as possible. We had nine enrollees from various scientific disciplines, and everyone did their best to participate in discussions of the submitted papers, helping one another to clarify both the science and its expression in writing.

Generous faculty members participated in the discussions of each student paper, and as usual their contributions were invaluable both to the writing and to understanding the essence of the students’ scientific accomplishments.  I’m grateful for their insights and active participation; so are the students.

As new writers, grad students often lack a dependable, repeatable writing process to formulate the scientific content and a literary structure to express it—before writing any actual part of the paper.  CHESS director Dr. Thomas Spengler and I continue to advocate the efficacy of doing this preliminary thinking before writing a draft—and before submitting it to the students’ advisor.  This, we contend, will accelerate the development of clear abstracts, introductions, and conclusions.

That we conducted the workshop remotely meant we lost, to some extent, the personal interactions so important to the workshop structure and the added value of our usual “Lit Night” and potluck dinner.  But thanks to the students’ diligent work under difficult circumstances, we produced another successful writing workshop.

Text: Dallas Murphy