Why is writing important in science?

Writing is the most common form of scientific communication, yet scientists have a reputation for being poor writers. Why? One reason could be that writing is never really taught to scientists. Better writing will benefit your science career in several ways. Within the scientific community, improved communication leads to improved collaboration, easier access to cross-disciplinary knowledge, and faster, less painful training. Besides this, you will be able to communicate better not only with other researchers, but with the public, who funds your research. If scientists were better writers, the gap between the public and academy would shrink.

How can I use this resource?

The Scientific Writing Resource is online course material that teaches how to write effectively. The material is not about correctness (grammar, punctuation, etc), but about communicating what you intend to the reader. It can be used either in a science class or by individuals. It is intended for science students at the graduate level.

Instructors: Use the resource in a science class to dedicate a lecture or two to writing skills. For each lesson, there are 3 resources: principles (for a lecture), examples, and a worksheet (for assignment).

Individuals: You can go through the resource on your own. The lessons can be done in about 45 minutes each. Just read through the lessons and examples, and then try your hand on the worksheets.

Communicating Effectively

The goal of writing is communication. These lessons do not put forth absolute rules. If the intent of the writer is communicated, the writing was effective, regardless of rules kept or broken. Instead of rules, these lessons provide principles of communication and writing from the reader’s persective. The ideas presented here are derived from many sources, notably including the philosophy of Joseph Williams and George Gopen. If you know what readers expect, then you can fill that expectation. Approaching writing like this will help you improve your written communication.

The key to success in writing lies in smart revision. At first, treat these as principles of revision rather than principles of writing. As you practice, they will naturally become integrated as you write.

This resource focuses on scientific writing, not science writing. What’s the difference? Find out here: What is scientific writing?

Start with lesson 1