Skip to main content
Help

Writing in the Sciences

Enrollment is Closed

PLEASE NOTE: This is an archived course and if you are joining late, you will not be able to earn a Statement of Accomplishment. If you would like to earn a Statement of Accomplishment, a self paced version has been released and is available here.

About This Course

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. Students from non-science disciplines can benefit from the training provided in the first four weeks (on general principles of effective writing).

Course Format

In the first four weeks, we will review principles of effective writing, examples of good and bad writing, and tips for making the writing process easier. In the second 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 watch video lectures, complete quizzes and editing exercises, write two short papers, and edit each others’ work.

Course Syllabus

Week 1 - Introduction; principles of effective writing (cutting unnecessary clutter)
Week 2 - Principles of effective writing (verbs)
Week 3 - Crafting better sentences and paragraphs
Week 4 - Organization; and streamlining the writing process
Week 5 - The format of an original manuscript
Week 6 - Reviews, commentaries, and opinion pieces; 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

Prerequisites

The course has no prerequisites other than fluency in English.

Course Staff

Kristin Sainani

Kristin Sainani (née Cobb) is a clinical assistant professor at Stanford University and also a health and science writer. After receiving an MS in statistics and PhD in epidemiology from Stanford University, she studied science writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She writes about science for a range of audiences, including authoring the health column Body News for Allure magazine and the statistics column Statistically Speaking for the journal Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. Dr. Sainani has previously taught "Writing in the Sciences" on Coursera and OpenEdX; and "Statistics in Medicine" on OpenEdX.

Pooja Yesantharao (TA)

Pooja Yesantharao graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from Rice University in 2015. As a current MS student in Epidemiology and Clinical Research, she is studying the genetic mechanisms behind squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), to better understand how human leukocyte antigen genes can modulate SCC risk. As an aspiring physician-scientist, Pooja is passionate about the use of epidemiology to inform health policy and evidence-based medicine, and she enjoys working as a Teaching Assistant. Beyond her academic career, Pooja loves playing tennis, reading, and teaching her pet parrot how to speak.

Frequently Asked Questions

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 4 to 8 hours of work per week.

Any additional textbooks/software required?

There is no textbook for this course. Students who would like additional reading may enjoy:

- 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
- http://www.aacc.org/publications/clin_chem/ccgsw/Pages/default.aspx
- 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.

Can I get CME credit for this course?

This free version of the course does not offer CME credits, but there is a fee-based CME version available as well. Go to the Stanford online CME course page for more information. You are welcome to take this free version of the course before the CME course, but note that you will still need to create an account on the CME site, pay the registration fee, and complete the CME Pre-test, Post-test, Evaluation Survey, and Activity Completion Attestation statement in order to receive your credits.

Course logo image adapted from one of Nic McPhee's photos on flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.

  1. Course Number

    SciWrite
  2. Classes Start

    Sep 01, 2015
  3. Classes End

    Nov 06, 2015
  4. Estimated Effort

    4-8 hrs/wk
  5. Price

    Free

Our Research Community

Stanford University pursues the science of learning. Online learners are important participants in that pursuit. The information we gather from your engagement with our instructional offerings makes it possible for faculty, researchers, designers and engineers to continuously improve their work and, in that process, build learning science.

By registering as an online learner, you are also participating in research...

Read Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.