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ADTIS: Bespoke Provision


Bespoke Provision

In response to an increasing number of ad-hoc requests from departments and colleges to run tailored workshops for them on their sites, we are planning a more formalised and flexible offering of development and training workshops.

What do we offer?

Drawing on our extensive body of in-house developed materials currently used on the regular In-Sessional Support Programme, at a Department’s or College’s request, we will tailor these or develop bespoke new workshops or courses. For example, many of our current workshops focus on aspects of improving academic writing or presentation skills. We can tailor these to the specific needs of students at particular stages of their work ranging from journal paper reviews or essays to final dissertations and PhD reports. We can also provide discipline-specific workshops in various areas, for example, from Writing a First Year Report in the Physical Sciences to Revising and Editing writing in the Social Sciences. Our work is supported by our own online resources and can be augmented by 1-1 supervisions.

What can the benefits be?

Feedback from our students tells us that they appreciate the fact that we don’t restrict ourselves to mere language skills. By working at the point where academic skills and communication skills meet we can help our students become better writers and presenters. We don’t train our students in what to write but we do help them write more accurately, clearly and with a greater understanding of academic literacy. By helping students form strategies in their approaches to learning and using academic language in their own fields, not only do they improve in their work but they gain in confidence and motivation.

What does it cost?

We can provide the workshop package a department or college requires and costs will depend on the number of workshops and/or supervisions and the degree to which the workshop materials need to be specifically designed.

Contacting us

We will be pleased to discuss any possible requests and to help you arrive at the most suitable and cost-effective provision. Please contact the ADTIS Secretary, Susan Nowak, at

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Examples of bespoke courses already designed

For Students

Academic Research and Writing Skills

Institute of Criminology

The academic year 2017-18 saw the start of a new relationship between ADTIS and the MPhil Conservation Leadership programme, culminating in a 2.5-hour workshop in December on academic research and writing skills. With the workshop’s content developed from participant input, the students were first invited to reflect on their past experience of producing written academic assignments. They were then asked to identify what skills they needed to improve and which aspects of academic research and writing they wished to know more about.

Key themes that emerged in the workshop included: getting started; engaging intellectually and practically with the task; project managing the self and the process; criticality; clarity; cohesion and coherence. Students also thought more deeply about what assessors of their work were looking for, and how to learn from and make use of feedback.

Participants at the workshop described it as ‘insightful’, ‘informative’, ‘eye opening’ and, most importantly, ‘really very useful’!

Public Speaking Skills

Institute of Criminology

In February 2017, a group of first-year PhD students from the Department of Criminology attended a two-hour ADTIS training session on Public Speaking Skills, at which they learned the most effective techniques for presenting their research. Key themes discussed included planning, preparation and purpose, understanding your audience, and how to manage content and delivery. Students undertook the training session ahead of giving research presentations before staff and peers.

Getting Published

In March 2017, the same group of first-year PhD from the Department of Criminology attended a 2.5-hour ADTIS training session on Getting Published: How to write an article in 12 weeks. Key themes discussed included an overview of the publishing process, types of journals and how to evaluate them, what to publish, what makes articles publishable, strategies for writing the article, the importance of editing, preparing for submission and journal decisions.

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MPhil Dissertation: Planning, Research
and Writing Skills

Department of Psychology

In March 2017, ADTIS delivered a 2.5-hour workshop on ‘Your MPhil Dissertation: Planning, Research and Writing Skills’ to students taking the MPhil in Social and Developmental Psychology. The workshop covered central aspects of the research process, such as defining a topic, literature search and literature review, and considered what it means to write ‘academically’. Criticality and plagiarism awareness were explored, and how to manage the student-supervisor relationship.

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Online Essay writing toolkit for Linguistics students

Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics

ADTIS is collaborating with DTAL in a Teaching & Learning Innovation Fund funded project to produce a set of interactive online materials to promote the teaching and learning of essay writing skills at undergraduate level. The materials will involve students in a practical and critical approach to unpacking questions, planning, reading and note-taking, and provide guidance on paragraphing, introductions, conclusions, editing and time management. Central to the success of this project are the opportunities the resource will provide for embedding its approach into the teaching and learning process and the opportunities it provides for blended learning.

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Research Skills – Computer Lab

Faculty of Computer Science and Technology

In October 2015 the ADTIS section delivered two workshops as part of the Computer Lab Research Skills programme for postgraduates. The focus of these was on academic style and its relationship with key academic skills.

The workshops were practical in emphasis and included how to exploit academic articles as models for strategy, structure and language use – very useful for the sizeable international cohort. The workshops also explored criteria for style in writing specific to computer scientists via demonstrating editing techniques. Setting two writing tasks enabled international students who need further support to be identified.

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Postgraduate Research and Writing Skills

Centre of South Asian Studies

In October 2016 ADTIS delivered a two-hour workshop on Postgraduate Research and Writing Skills to new MPhil and PhD students at the Centre of South Asian Studies. Offered in response to feedback from former students, the purpose of the workshop was to raise awareness of the research and academic writing skills required at the postgraduate level

Particular focus was given to ‘what examiners want’ from academic writing and research, and to identifying the most common problems students encounter when tackling research and writing tasks.

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Talks to the Faculty of Education

The Craft of Academic Argument for Doctoral Students

Faculty of Education

Argument and argumentation are arguably the core of postgraduate research and are inextricably linked to critical thinking, clear, sound writing skills as well as suasion. Argumentation in UK HE is rooted in the Anglo-European rhetorical tradition, dating back to before Aristotle’s well-known contribution to this field, The Art of Rhetoric, and there have been numerous, rather more modern insights by such thinkers as Toulmin and Vygotsky.

In this session we explored the rhetorical tradition and the import this has for the craft of academic argument, both more generally as well as more specifically for the field of education. We concluded by briefly exploring the cultural aspect to argumentation, since developing arguments is a culturally embedded topic. Different cultures, both national as well as disciplinary, have different ways of approaching the initial formation of and development of an argument.

Cultural Modes of Argumentation - Introduction for New PG Students

Unlike speaking, writing abilities are not naturally acquired; they must be culturally (rather than biologically) transmitted in every generation. Writing is therefore a set of skills which must be practiced and learned through experience. Writing – particularly the more complex composing skills valued in the academy – involves training, instruction, practice, experience and purpose.

In addition, since written language is not universally distributed but has developed differentially, it has come to serve somewhat different purposes in different language cultures. And cultures do not write using the same assumptions, strategies and goals. Developing arguments, arguably the cornerstone of postgraduate research is also a culturally embedded topic since different cultures have different ways of approaching the initial formation and development of an argument.

Starting PG study at a UK higher Education Institution can therefore be a daunting prospect for native and non-native English speakers alike – since as Bourdieu once noted, ‘[a]cademic language is never anyone’s mother tongue’.

What we therefore looked at in this session is how academic discourse works in English, what the expectations of your reader are, and more importantly, strategies you can employ to meet these expectations.

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JBS Doctoral Support Programme

JBS Doctoral Support Programme

In 2013 we were approached by the Judge Business School to provide a series of workshops and drop-in surgeries on academic writing and presentation skills.

The writing workshops focused on the basics of preparing to write a PhD thesis in Management, which included forming and developing your argument; paragraphing and structure; academic language and style and the drafting process, as well as on the editing process and how to polish one’s writing. In the presentation skills workshops we started by reviewing what constitutes a good presentation before moving on to the graduates’ own presentations, which were videoed. All participants were provided with detailed verbal feedback after the presentation and detailed written feedback afterwards.

The drop-in surgeries were one-to-one supervisions on any aspect of writing and/or presentations that the graduates wished to discussed.

The workshops take place in Lent and Easter in order to provide support and feedback on the graduates’ First Year Report and First Year Presentation.

The Surgeries are available to graduates who:

    1. have either completed draft journal papers or conference papers: they receive written feedback on their draft paper and a 1-hour session at the Language Centre to discuss; and/or
    2. have had their first paper accepted to a conference: they are required to present their talk twice to the Subject Group – the first of which will focus on Content, after which they will receive verbal and written feedback from the Language Centre on language and delivery, before presenting the presentation again to the Subject Group.

Should your Department/College be interested in running something similar, just get in touch with us for more details:

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FAMES Cultural Influences on Writing

CUP Cambridge English Corpus

In 2013-2014 we developed a pilot project on Improving the academic writing process for postgraduate students at FAMES. The project involved:

    1. the development of a preparatory online module, 'Achieving Clarity in Writing', the objective of which was to get the graduates thinking about the entire writing process and to reflect on where problems may arise along the way;
    2. a 3-hr workshop Michaelmas which focused on how to achieve clarity in writing by looking at what makes English tick;
    3. mentoring throughout Lent where the students simply got in touch when they had something about their writing that they wanted to discuss –  be it a tricky section that they were having difficulty with, an aspect of their writing in general that they wanted to improve, or they simply wanted to go over what they had recently written to see what they could do to tighten it up;
    4. which was followed up in Easter with a practical follow-up 3-hr workshop which looked at four central ideas discussed in the MT workshop (Old before New; Simplicity First, Complexity Last; Being confidently cautious: Hedging; The devil’s in the detail: Punctuation) before employing these in looking at the participants’ own writing and how to improve the clarity.

We are looking to run the sessions again next year for FAMES. Should your Department/College be interested in running something similar, just get in touch with us for more details:

What this year’s participants thought:

"Thanks very much for all of the help you have given me. I really have learnt from your workshop. I was surprised that you generalized the characteristics of academic English usage in a simple and clear way. Thanks for your guidance, I am making use of what you have taught me to write my academic essays. I know what I need to do for my further study, and I am on the way to improve myself."

" Thank you very very much for the workshop […]. I learned a lot, and it helped me realise how to understand some of the issues I have with students' writing (and partly with my own). Having paid attention at the workshop, I became aware that the following issues are probably the biggest cultural differences in writing:

- What is a paragraph, how is it structured - and related to this, how to structure an argument i.e. making the argument first and then explaining and giving examples. Before coming to England I had never learned or read about a structure of a paragraph. The only advice I remember is that a paragraph should not be longer than a page.

- Putting meaning in the verbs: Certainly in Japanese (but obviously similar in Chinese), in academic language it is very common to use nominalisation (consisting of chinese character compounds + saying 'to do' / suru) rather than the simpler verb. […]

- Theme – Rheme: I always have the feeling, students jump around (particularly non native ones), but I never new how to explain them how they can improve to notice this themselves. (and it is also a bit of a problem for myself; so this is very helpful)

- Characters: this is also an important issue I was not aware of. "

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Academic Proofreading Training Workshop

Homerton College

Easter Term 2015 saw ADTIS’s pilot Academic Proofreading Training Workshop, designed for and delivered to postgraduate students at Homerton College. Conceived of as the basis for an in-house peer proofreading initiative, the aim of the workshop was to teach students what academic proofreading requires, to familiarise them with its techniques and applications, and to guide them through the proofreading process.

Proofreading is an essential component of academic writing. Thus, participants first identified the particularities of proofreading (as distinct from copy editing), and were introduced to the technical skills required and the use of British Standard Institute (BS 5261) proofreading symbols. The four key areas of grammar, orthography, punctuation and style were then discussed in detail, following which participants considered best practice when undertaking proofreading for others, within the framework of the University Statement on Proofreading and in compliance with the University-wide Statement on Plagiarism.

As a follow-up to the workshop, students were invited to attempt an authentic academic proofreading task, to be reviewed and assessed by the workshop instructor. Participants to the workshop will receive ongoing support from a proofreading mentor and a dedicated Moodle page with resources and forum. This two-hour workshop presents students of all disciplines with a great opportunity to learn an indispensable transferable skill. It can also serve as a springboard for peer and mentoring activity within colleges, while supporting students’ continuing professional development (CPD) and enhancing their employability.

Should your college be interested in hosting an academic proofreading training workshop, please contact Dr Karen Ottewell for further details.
What one participant reported about the workshop:

This was a high-level, rigorous workshop. The ADTIS team is really raising the bar.

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Lecturing Skills for Postgraduates


As part of their Skills Training provision for postgraduates POLIS asked us to design and deliver a workshop on Lecturing Training. This was a 2.5hr session, in which we looked at: Why do we lecture?; Lecture Preparation; The Lecture; Delivery; Use of Media; and Strategies for Developing your Lecturing Skills.

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Clinical Communication Skills

In response to a request from a College, we recently developed a bespoke short course in Clinical Communication Skills. Drawing on the Calgary-Cambridge Guide to the Medical Interview, we provided focused skills support in how to establish contact, build rapport, gather information and explore a patient’s concerns and expectations.

Addenbrooke's HospitalLearning was underpinned by basic clinical communication principles such as how to listen actively and how to formulate purposeful and productive questions. Scenarios in different contexts were attempted, such as taking a medical history (A&E), obtaining an alcohol history (GP surgery) and dealing with a patient in surgical outpatients. Specific skills development included how (and when) to use open and closed questions; how to attend and facilitate; how to reflect, clarify and summarise; and how to establish dates and sequence. Importantly, we also considered the role of transcultural factors within the clinical communication context.

Following the success of this pilot, ADTIS is now offering clinical communication skills coaching to individuals and small groups (triads). In both models, students will be invited to reflect on and identify strategies for effective clinical communication, and will practise and perfect their skills using both scripts and real-life scenarios. The triad model will take the form of a practice pair plus an observer, and will require participants to report on both their own and observed ‘consultations’.

Besides providing a forum for the training and polishing of speaking skills, clinical communication skills coaching offers the opportunity for confidence building, giving and receiving peer feedback, cultural understanding and language enhancement.

To learn more about clinical communication skills coaching, contact:

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For Academics

Supporting Postgraduate Writing – An Introduction for Supervisors Pathways to Higher Education Practice (PHEP)

We were invited to contribute a session on the PHEP Seminar for newly-appointed probationary University lecturers on how they can support postgraduate student writing, especially for those whose first language is not English:

As Bourdieu rightly noted, ‘[a]cademic language is never anyone’s mother tongue’, and this is particularly true of academic writing, whether or not English is your first language. Given the fact that Cambridge has one of the, if not actually the highest entrance requirement for English language proficiency, the difficulties that in particular students for whom English is a second language face, in my experience, are less likely to do with the actual language itself than with the conventions of how (academic) English is used. We are all aware that when we are grappling with new ideas that we do not yet fully understand, there is an apparent lack of clarity is in our writing. But as we revise and rework, our thoughts become clearer and so too does our written expression of them. The same is true for students whose first language is not English – but this may be all the more compounded if they are unsure of the argumentative paradigm that is expected of them, especially if their native paradigm is very different. It is here where transfer effects may appear and be interpreted as linguistic deficiencies rather than culturally, in the broadest sense, defined differences in approach, both in terms of argumentation as well as rhetoric. Basically, all that is required to avoid this are clearly articulated expectations and guidelines.

The aims of this session were therefore, firstly, to raise awareness of the difficulties that in particular students whose first language is not English may face and the potential reasons for this, exploring the commonly-held misconceptions that they are simply ‘language’ problems’; and secondly, to reflect on how best to support the development of written academic literacy for all students.

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For Staff

Office of Postdoctoral Affairs

We have been running a highly successful rolling series of courses in Professional Communication for volunteers at OPdA since early 2015.

The courses focus on areas such as getting the tone right in e-mails, project report writing, writing up minutes of meetings, delivering presentations and writing articles for the OPdA website.

This is supported by work on language skills, editing skills, discussion skills and pronunciation. Integrated in the courses is a 1-1 component in which individual participants receive support in their own particular areas of interest.

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Latest News

This was a high-level, rigorous workshop. The ADTIS team is really raising the bar.

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