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Stanford University

Writing in the Sciences

Stanford University via Stanford OpenEdx

This course may be unavailable.


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).


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.

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

Taught by

Kristin Sainani



4.5 rating, based on 17 Class Central reviews

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  • Tom Kawai completed this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

    The lecturer writes academic articles herself; the pitfalls, the hurdles, and how to get you published; all in one course. She un-trains your bad habits and walks you through your first tables, to eventually giving interviews to journalists. She calms...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    The videos and the instructor are fine, but really the peer review is less than useless.

    The were glitches that reset the scores to zero during the editing, and a lot of people got unfair zeros out of this. Not enough people cared to submit feedback at all, and the forum is filled with people complaining about a low grade with no motivation. Finally, a lot of students didn't complete their assigned peer review, so there were cases with only 2 or 1 score given, and also this one with no feedback and unfair low marks.

    If the peer review system is not changed, definitely better to avoid this course or just watch the videos. Losing time with the assigments is useless
  • Profile image for Justin Beach
    Justin Beach

    Justin Beach completed this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    This course is intended for scientists who publish or intend to publish academic papers. As a non-scientist I don't know how useful my review can be. I took the course because I write about science and wanted to gain a better understanding of the process behind science writing and publishing. If this is a subject that interests you it is a good comprehensive review that does not go over your head (regardless of your science background). The course also offers a good deal of worthwhile writing advice, regardless of what you are writing about. I found that it took roughly a half hour per day.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Fantastically practical. Good assignments. Excellent instruction. The peer review process was somewhat flawed because of the significant amount of extra work related to editing pieces by poor non-English speakers, and annoying to read their edits of decent English writing. In all, a super worthwhile course. Take it and you'll be thankful every sentence you write!
  • Amanda Salimon completed this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be hard.

    The course is excellent for those who wish to learn how to write articles and papers. You have to dedicate yourself to watch the videos carefully and to do all the exercises. They take time and effort, but it is completely worth it. I think I might take the course again to review some points and improve my writing.
  • Maciej completed this course.

    There were some minor problems with peer reviews and greading, but overall this course was one of the most practical and useful MOOCS I have ever attended.

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    good course to improve my writing skill it provide by standord so good teacher and very good course for anyone who want to face competion
  • Seamus Coyle

    Seamus Coyle is taking this course right now and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    I have just completed the first unit.
    I am stunned at how useful it was. There are a number of practical tips that can easily be applied to my writing. I am looking forward to the rest of the course.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I took her course last summer and found it very helpful for young researchers and students. Thank you. I wish she had more examples and exercises. :D
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    It is an awesome learning experience even for professional writers.
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