Writing in the Sciences



    Welcome to the self-paced version of Writing in the Sciences! The course is organized into 8 learning units. We anticipate that each unit will take about 2 to 6 hours to complete. After completing all 8 units, you will take a multiple-choice final exam. For those trying to earn a Statement of Accomplishment, your final grade will be based on: quizzes (20%); Unit 1-3 homework assignments (40%); and a multiple-choice final exam (40%). You will have two attempts on quiz questions, but just one attempt on homework and exam questions. To earn a Statement of Accomplishment, you must score at least 60% in the course. To earn a Statement with distinction, you must score 90% or better. You can monitor your cumulative grade in the course by clicking on the Progress menu.

    Course enrollment and the materials and assignments will be open until at least June, 2018. If access to the course materials will be turned off at any point, notification will go out to all course participants.

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


    In the first four units, we will review principles of effective writing, examples of good and bad writing, and tips for making the writing process easier. In the last four units, we will examine issues specific to scientific writing, including: authorship, peer review, the format of an original manuscript, and communicating science for lay audiences.

    Throughout the course, participants will watch video lectures and complete quizzes, editing exercises, and a final exam. There are also 2 optional writing excercises. Participants who opt to do these assignments will have a chance to submit two short papers, edit and provide feedback to other participants who have submitted the papers, and receive feedback on their submissions.


    Unit 1 – Introduction; principles of effective writing (cutting unnecessary clutter)
    Unit 2 – Principles of effective writing (verbs)
    Unit 3 – Crafting better sentences and paragraphs
    Unit 4 – Organization; and streamlining the writing process
    Unit 5 – The format of an original manuscript
    Unit 6 – Reviews, commentaries, and opinion pieces; and the publication process
    Unit 7 – Issues in scientific writing (plagiarism, authorship, ghostwriting, reproducible research)
    Unit 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.

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