Profile of a Research Community

In Project 1, we ask you to explore the communication vehicles of the research community you are in the process of joining. You will work in assigned peer teams of your classmates (other students in your major) for some parts of this exercise and you will work alone for other parts.

Project Goal:

To identify both written and oral communication channels, including professional journals, books, grant proposals, letters, memos, professional meetings, seminars, lab conversations and informal meetings.


1. You may already know more than you think about communication in your field. Begin by thinking about your own experiences in your field–by brainstorming. It might be helpful to list things you know and don’t know to guide your research.

  • What journals are used in your field? Which of these is the most prestigious?
  • What funding agencies give money to scientists in your field?
  • To what professional associations and societies do scientists in your field belong?
  • Which local, regional, and national conferences do researchers attend to keep abreast of current information in their discipline?
  • What style manual for written communication is standard in your field? Your advisor probably has a copy of it on his or her bookshelf.
  • What informal methods of communication are used in your department? Talking with graduate students could be useful; they attend many on-campus meetings and seminars.
  • What memos and bulletins aid the communication process in your department? Walking the halls with careful observation of bulletin boards and postings will give you lots of information.
  • As you brainstorm, make a two-part list: 1) what you know and 2) what you need to learn. You will turn this list in as part of Project 1.

2. After you’ve decided where you need to fill in the gaps in your knowledge, you should think about ways to accomplish the project goal. I will give you guidance in class about ways to find out about the scientific community. In addition, to give you the opportunity to interview working scientists, I have arranged for a panel of NCSU professors and graduate students in various CALS and PAMS departments to visit our class for a panel discussion. As you interview these scientists, your objective is to find out what kinds of written and oral communication the panel members do as members of the scientific community. We will be working in peer groups in class before the panel discussion to develop interview questions for the panel. Each group will elect a scribe to document this group’s activities, and several group members will be expected to ask interview questions.

3. The rest of your research for Project 1 should explore a range of scientific communication activities. You should go to the library and analyze the journals and books in your discipline the panel members mentioned. Read the editorial guidelines for these journals (usually inside the front cover) to help you think about the purposes and audiences of these communications. Reference librarians can help you find information about professional associations, funding agencies, and online resources.

4. As part of Project 1, you will be writing an analytical summary (~4-5 pages) which should focus on your perspectives about the research community. Begin with a brief introduction to the field (what kinds of research are conducted, etc.), and then describe the channels of communication you have discovered. You can include information you already know, information gained from the panel discussion, research on journals at the library, and your own exploration of your discipline’s scientific community. Use the sample profile on pages 26-28 of your textbook as a guide. Remember, I’m interested in your analysis of how communication in your field works for the advancement of science.

5. Project 1 is a packet or portfolio of your impressions of the professional scientific community you are entering. Your two pocket folder should be a neatly organized collection of materials, including your two part list (item 1 above), notes from interviews, notes about journals and online resources, and your essay as well as with any other materials you want to share with me.

Criteria for evaluation

  • Thoughtfulness and perception about the scientific community.
  • Your individual participation in the peer group and panel discussion activities.
  • Quality, completeness, and neatness of the whole Project 1 packet.
  • Quality of organization of the essay.
  • Quality of the mechanics of the essay (grammar, punctuation, presentation, neatness, etc