Does this intro make sense? Does this figure look okay? I think I’m done but I’d love for someone to take a look…

As NSE students and postdocs, we all run into communication micro-needs that slow down our writing process or slide preparation. That’s why the NSE Comm Lab now offers Quick Takes, an online tool that allows anyone in the department to receive field-specific feedback without making a Comm Lab appointment. Simply let us know where you might be getting stuck, and one of the Fellows will get back to you as soon as they are able.

  • You can expect a response within 24–36 hours (possibly longer on weekends and holidays).
  • We’ll give you 2–3 bullet points of targeted feedback and recommendations.
  • If you’re looking for in-depth feedback, a 30-min or 1-hr coaching session may be more appropriate. In that case, make your appointment here.
  • We do not provide line-by-line editing or proofreading, as these services fall outside our educational model.
  • Note that Quick Takes is only available to those affiliated with MIT NSE.

Examples of Quick Takes requests

You can submit anything from an abstract to a figure to parts of a manuscript. Here are examples of requests we’ve received:

  • “I’m looking for ways to make this figure more self-explanatory and visually appealing. It’s for a paper.”
  • “Whether the stated results in the abstract are clear enough and also appreciate given the background.”
  • “Ending of the last paragraph of the introduction. Would like some help brainstorming the potential impact of my paper.”

The whole point of Quick Takes is to make it easier for you to seek feedback without formalities getting in the way. The process should be as informal as walking up to a Comm Fellow and saying, “Hey, can you take a quick look?” Nevertheless, the more details you provide the easier it will be for us to help you.

Examples of Quick Takes responses

Once we have your submission, one of the Fellows will spend a few minutes reviewing your work, with special attention to your particular concerns. They’ll respond to you via email and may include a sketch or attachment with embedded comments. Their response may be a combination of observations, direct feedback, and guiding prompts. Here are some examples:

  • “I found myself taking a while to find your curve among all of the other ones (especially on the bottom plot). I’d love to have that curve stand out. You could think about 1) reducing the overall number of curves, and/or 2) using lighter colors or smaller symbols (thinner lines or dots) for the past curves, and then you could use a darker/heavier line for your model to build contrast.”
  • “Explaining the impact will be easier if you lay a little more groundwork here. What are these shortcomings and why are they important?”
  • “You could do different things depending on the context of the figure. For example, if this is a slide presentation, you could animate the motion of the atom and vacancy as they move. If it is for a paper/poster, you could show a diagram of a matrix of a few atoms before and after the migration.”

The feedback will be limited to 2-3 bullet points—or maybe they’ll tell you that your work is great and that they wouldn’t change a thing! The Fellow may also contact you with clarifying questions if needed.

We hope this tool helps you make progress faster. If you have any questions, please email NSE Comm Lab Manager Marina Dang (dangm@mit.edu).