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Language workshops for political scientists, sociologists, and economists

This series of one- and two-hour workshops focuses on technicalities of research writing that are often challenging for political scientists, sociologists, and economists. Areas covered include language for making claims, the nuances of stance when referring to existing literature, and the precise use of punctuation. There are also sessions on concision, the “art of the sentence,” and even the limitations and scholarly risks of using generative AI as a writing tool.

Researchers are welcome to join all or any of these workshops that they think will be useful to them. 




English 617

Language Workshops for political scientists, sociologists, and economists

Reserved SPS & ECO



Worskshops start on October 2023





Place & Teacher



Ben Carver



Incorporating the literature

Making claims

Music or mayhem? Punctuating your text


The art of sentence

What can Chat-GPT (and other LLMs) do and not do?


Learning outcomes

The aim of this series of workshops is to improve precision and clarity in a number of areas of writing. If you attend all the sessions, by the end of term you will:

  • be able to express your stance towards and degree of agreement with second sources
  • have a clear grasp of which punctuation rules are flexible and which are not
  • be able to assess sentence length for redundancy and “clunkiness,” and improve accordingly
  • be informed about the limitation of generative AI for writing, as well as the risks concerning plagiarism and reliability


Topics covered are:

  • language for making claims, for incorporating secondary literature
  • punctuation (with a focus on commas), concision and redundancy
  • the limitations of generative AI for research writers

Learning methods and activities

Participants will work with their own writing in progress where appropriate, and in the case of the 2-session workshops, they may need to do a short redrafting exercise. Participants should also be ready to share their writing with peers in the workshop, and provide sensitive feedback on others. 

     These 1- or 2-hour workshops are discrete events and participants can choose to attend some/any according to need and scheduling. You must enrol in each individual session.



Incorporating the literature (1 x 60 minutes)

Economists and social/political scientists tend to cite extensively and quickly (compared with Humanities researchers, who might engage at greater length with certain key works). The challenge, thus, for effective writing for publication in Social sciences and Economics is to provide sufficient information about the source and to communicate “stance” while managing succinctness. The 1-hour workshop draws on examples from published papers to show the language, techniques, and constructions for managing this balance.


Wednesday 25 October 15:00-16:30

Badia - Seminar Room 4




Making claims (2 x 60 minutes)

It isn’t always easy to distinguish between stating a fact and making a claim in English. There are nuances of meaning and confidence involved in the language choices and argumentation structure that affect the coherence and persuasiveness of claim for the reader. Researchers in disciplines such as SPS and ECO sometimes send out unintended signals in these key sentences. This workshop helps writers navigate these skills and hazards in English, using examples from published papers as examples. The first session concentrates on the language for claims; the second on the underlying argumentation and its clarity. Participants will be asked to produce writing during this short course.

Wednesday 8 November 15:00-16:30

Wednesday 22 November 14:00-15:30

Badia - Seminar Room 4





Music or mayhem? Punctuating your text (1 x 60 minutes)

When is a comma optional and when is it mandatory? Punctuation is often overlooked, or considered of little importance, but it adds clarity and precision to a text. A poorly punctuated text or mathematical equation is harder to read and may mislead or suggest sloppiness to the reader. An error in punctuation may even cost money. This 1-hour workshop looks at where and why punctuation matters.

Wednesday 6 December 15:00-16:30

Convento - Chomsky Room


Concision (1 x 60 minutes)

Keep it short and banish redundancy. That’s easier said than done, so this workshop will look at the most common forms of redundancy. Participants are asked to bring a piece of writing in progress to work on during the session.

Wednesday 24 January 15:00-16:30

Badia - Seminar Room 3




The art of sentence (2 x 60 minutes)

What makes a good sentence? We know it when we see it, or at least we know what we like, even if our own writing doesn’t always meet our aspirations for clarity and elegance. In these workshops we’ll consider the difference between paratactic (line of thought) and hypotactic (digressive) syntax, and look at how the tolerances of English are not always the same as other languages when it comes to long subjects and complex structure. We will also dwell on register and how to make a sentence feel lively. Participants are asked to bring work in progress and be ready to share and revise together.

Wednesday 7 February 15:00-16:30

Wednesday 14 February 15:00-16:30

Badia - Seminar Room 3




What can Chat-GPT (and other LLMs) do and not do? (1 x 60 minutes)

LLMs, or interactive AI, have boosters and sceptics. Regarding its usefulness for doctoral research, it carries risks of inaccuracy and superficial analysis. The purpose of this workshop is to evaluate some of its outputs for research purposes: Can it summarize well enough? Can it improve a piece of writing when asked? More generally, what are the issues and concerns related to citation and plagiarism? We will be critically examining the outputs of these interactive language bots and discussing some of the wider implications of this emerging technology.

Wednesday 28 February 15:00-16:30

Badia - Seminar Room 2



Teacher's bio

Ben Carver teaches English research writing and communication at the EUI Centre for Academic Literacies and Languages (CALL). His PhD in literary history was awarded in 2012 (University of Exeter) and appeared as a monograph in 2017 (Palgrave). Since then he has published research articles, edited a volume of essays on literature and conspiracy culture (Routledge), and published pieces for a broad readership on television programmes, science fiction, and music. He is interested in supporting early-career academics’ ability to write and publish in a range of formats, for audiences within and beyond the academy.

Page last updated on 25 October 2023

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