Scientific Writing Minicourse

Course Number: 
Course Type: 
Career Development
Currently Offered: 
Instructor (MCB Faculty): 
Lingappa, Jaisri
Course Description: 

This 3-week minicourse is designed for Pathobiology graduate students (but is open to other graduate students) and will:

         ·teach students guidelines for writing clearly and effectively

         ·provide students experience in writing key "missing" sections of a research article

         ·provide students experience in critiquing and revising, using guidelines discussed in lectures

In the first five classes a lecture that covers guidelines for writing clearly and effectively will be followed by examples of problem sentences that illustrate points presented in the lecture, with class discussion of potential solutions.  In the last class, students will present parts of their assignments to the class, emphasizing guidelines discussed in earlier classes. 

Learning Objectives: 

At the end of this course students should be able to:

  1. Explain guidelines and concepts related to clarity, voice, cohesiveness, coherence, emphasis, concision, shaping, coordination, tense, and citations.
  2. Identify when problems related to these issues are present in a piece of writing.
  3. Find one or more solutions to problems related to these solutions.
  4. Understand what should be included in the Abstract, Introduction, Results, and Discussion sections of a scientific paper.
Required Text: 
No textbook is required. However, "Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace" by Joseph Williams (tenth or earlier editions) is highly recommended. Also, articles on writing will be posted on the class website as recommended reading.
Course requirements, examinations and grading: 

Students can choose to take this class for Credit/ No Credit or for a grade.

In the first assignment, each student will write a "missing" section of an assigned published paper (on a topic in pathogen biology), and will receive written critiques from the instructor.  In the second writing assignment, each student will critique and rewrite two paragraphs from a proposal or paper they have written in the past, and present parts of this critique in class.

First writing assignment               25%

Second writing assignment          25%

Class Presentation                             25%

Class Participation                             25%

Date, Instructor


Class Topic




Mon. April 21,

J. Lingappa

Part I: Writing the Abstract and Introduction

Part II: Clarity, actions, and characters

Part III:  Examples of problems with clarity and discussion of potential solutions


Assignments explained:

Assignment 1:  write a missing section of a paper chosen by the instructor


Assignment 2: Revise a piece of your own writing

Wed. April 23,

J. Lingappa

Part I: Writing the Results and Discussion

Part II: Cohesion

Part III:  Examples of problems with cohesion, and discussion of potential solutions



Mon. April 28,

J. Lingappa

Part I: Coherence and voice

Part II:  Examples of problems with coherence or voice, and discussion of potential solutions


 Assignment 1 due

Wed. April 30,

J. Lingappa

Part I: Emphasis and concision

Part II:  Examples of problems with emphasis or concision, and discussion of potential solutions



Mon. May 5,

J. Lingappa

Part I: Tenses, Shaping, Coordination, and citations

Part II:

Examples of problems with tenses and discussion of potential solutions

 Instructor comments (and grades where appropriate) on assignment 1 sent to students

Wed. May 7,

J. Lingappa

Student presentations of critiques and revisions

Assignment 2 due (written format) and presented orally in class; Written evaluations of assignment 2 (and grades where appropriate) will be sent to students by email.