ENVIRON 966: Professional Writing


Reader requirements: An undergraduate degree or higher in Environmental Science, with at least 5-10 years outside work experience.

  1. Course Information
  2. Schedule
  3. Giving Feedback

Course Information

Instructor: Prof. Nicolette L. Cagle

This course teaches skills and strategies to make the writing process less intimidating and written work more clear and powerful. Comprised of online writing modules that provide examples of excellent nonfiction writing with the goal of identifying what makes the writing successful. Students develop and sharpen their own writing skills through incorporating feedback from a series of drafts. Student writing is reviewed in various forums-including writing workshops, peer reviews, and teacher conferences-to provide detailed feedback, allowing students to rethink and revise their writing.

Student Writing:

What are students writing? The course encompasses​ a variety of genres based on student interest. Some students might be writing proposals or memos for work, others might ​​write op-eds or blog posts for public audiences. The unifying theme is that the course builds the skills needed by environmental professionals.​

In this class, students will work through one writing project from the brainstorming stage to revisions and final draft. A student’s writing project can take any form or genre (e.g., newsletter, op-ed, policy memo). Student’s writing project can be something student is writing for work or pleasure. If student does not have a current writing project that they feel compelled to pursue, they can consider writing a policy memo or Op-Ed.

For whom? The students are writing for academic and professional audiences.​

Student’s should:

  • Construct and refine clear arguments
  • Situate relevant academic literature in the context of contemporary environmental issues
  • Practice the written conventions of professional writing for public audiences
  • Self-edit for sentence clarity and conciseness
  • Revise and rethink writing through multiple drafts and peer feedback

Schedule (Student – Reader Interactions):

These are the deadlines for this course, as they pertain to the Duke Reader Project:

Sept 8: Student will schedule an introductory meeting with their reader to discuss target audience for their chosen piece of writing and submit audience analysis to reader.

Sept 10: Reader will return feedback on audience analysis to student.

Oct 9: Student will send 1st draft to their reader.

Oct 16: Reader will return feedback on 1st draft to student.

Nov 5 – Nov 22: Between these dates, student will  send 2nd draft to their reader. Ideally no later than the Nov. 15 in order to give reader at least a week to review and provide feedback.

Nov 26: Reader will return feedback on 2nd draft to student.

Link to full Syllabus:


Giving Feedback

Giving feedback is the activity around which the entire project is designed. You may have considerable professional experience giving feedback on writing — whether to colleagues, employees, or other contexts — or perhaps this is an fairly novel experience. Given the aims and nature of the Reader Project, we are hoping that our volunteers engage with student writing in a particular way–one that is quite different from what is conventionally done in other contexts.

The primary aim of the project is to help students really understand what it means to write for readers, rather than as a school assignment. Think about the following when you give feedback, whether in writing or in real time:

  • Respond as a reader rather than as an editor. (They can get basic editorial help from others.) Focus on sharing your reactions to the draft as a user of such writing. What are you thinking as you read? More