Writing in the Sciences

Writing in the Sciences


This course trains scientists to become more effective writers, using practical examples and exercises. Topics include: principles of good writing, tricks for writing swifter and with less anxiety, the format of a scientific manuscript, and issues in publication and peer review. Students from non-science disciplines can benefit from the training provided in the very first four weeks (on general principles of effective writing).


In the very first four weeks, we will review principles of effective writing, examples of good and bad writing, and tips for making the writing process lighter. In the 2nd four weeks, we will examine issues specific to scientific writing, including: authorship, peer review, the format of an original manuscript, and communicating science for lay audiences. Students will observe movie lectures, accomplish quizzes and editing exercises, write two brief papers, and edit each others’ work.


Week 1 – Introduction; principles of effective writing (cutting unnecessary clutter)

Week Two – Principles of effective writing (verbs)

Week Trio – Crafting better sentences and paragraphs

Week Four – Organization; and streamlining the writing process

Week Five – The format of an original manuscript

Week 6 – Reviews, commentaries, and opinion lumps; and the publication process

Week 7 – Issues in scientific writing (plagiarism, authorship, ghostwriting, reproducible research)

Week 8 – How to do a peer review; and how to communicate with the lay public


The course has no prerequisites other than fluency in English.


Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment?

Yes, students who score at least 60 percent will pass the course and receive a Statement of Accomplishment.

Students who score at least 90 percent will receive a Statement of Accomplishment with distinction.

How much of a time commitment will this course be?

You should expect this course to require Four to 8 hours of work per week.

Any extra textbooks/software required?

There is no textbook for this course. Students who would like extra reading may love:

– On Writing Well. William Zinsser

– The Elements of Style. Strunk and White

– Sin and Syntax. Constance Hale

– Essentials of Writing Biomedical Research Papers. Mimi Zeiger

– Science and Society: An Anthology for Readers and Writers. eds: Nelson-McDermott, LePan, Buzzard

– We recommend taking this course on a standard computer using Google Chrome as the internet browser. We are not yet optimized for mobile devices.

Related video: Interview with Teach for America (TFA)!:)

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