Intensive classes enhance students’ written communication skills

August 1, August 5, September 24, 2013 Osaka University

Learning to communicate value effectively

HWIP students recently participated in a program designed to build skills in “summarizing information gathered from the corporate sector and communicating it appropriately along with one’s own ideas.” The program, which comprised a series of three intensive classes and interviews with company representatives, was run by Dr. Toshihiro Ishizawa of Leave-a-Nest, a company engaged in human resource development and venture business support. The first half of the intensive classes entailed practicing skills of effective communication and writing articles for audiences outside one’s own disciplinary specialization and without any background in science.

Writing with a specific audience in mind

Dr. Ishizawa, who holds a doctoral degree in bioscience, explained the three key points in planning and implementing an interdisciplinary research project: obtaining information from other members of the research team, adding something extra to generate new value, and working out how to communicate that value to third parties. With this advice in mind, participants proceeded to try their hand at writing an article designed to communicate the attractions of studying science and engineering at university to an audience of high school students, as well as interviewing other students and summarizing the contents of those interviews in written form. One participant commented: “I’m used to writing lab reports, so I thought writing was easy. But up to now I haven’t really thought about the purpose of my writing or the intended audience, so I learned a lot from these classes.”

Interviews with corporate representatives

Following the second intensive class, participants formed groups and paid visits to companies of varying sizes and industries, including manufacturing and IT venture companies, to conduct interviews on topics of their own choice. Topics included “your company’s strengths: commonalities and distinguishing features”, “differences between universities and the corporate world”, “university-industry research partnerships”, and “comparing venture businesses to large companies”. In the third intensive class on September 24, the groups presented the findings of their interviews. The immense value of this experience for students engaging in interdisciplinary research was demonstrated by feedback from the participants, which included comments such as: “I sensed that all the companies were focused on innovation as a means of maintaining their growth,” and “companies have a different perspective from universities; I think that researchers who understand the corporate perspective will have an advantage.”