Sentences for Scientists

English sentence structure is a continual challenge to non-native speakers. For scientists, mastering the art of writing clear sentences is essential. This course will help you tell your scientific story, as powerfully and effectively as possible. Your writing will be easy to understand, not only for native English speakers, but for non-native speakers who read English-language journals.

Course Details

Objective: At the end of the course, students will be more skilled writers and editors, able to offer and respond to concrete suggestions to improve their work.

This workshop can stand alone, or it can be included in a multi-day scientific writing workshop. . In this module, I focus on “top down” paragraph structure: the first sentence broadly states the idea of the paragraph, and the supplementary sentences expand upon, and support it.

I teach in a lively, interactive fashion, without grammar exercises or any kind of rote language instruction. Instead, I use “live” writing examples from papers in progress, and focus on real-world editing in the classroom. You will learn to spot the errors you are most prone to make, and learn to correct them quickly. I believe in constructive criticism and encouragement, so you needn’t be worried about sharp critique. There are no writers out there, including native speakers, whose work is perfect.

In preparation, I ask participants to email me a sample of writing on which they are currently at work, or that they have recently completed. Please ask them to indicate the paragraphs that they think require particular attention. In it, I will distill the samples to illustrate common errors, and will guide students through correcting them. Then students will work in pairs, under my supervision, to improve each others’ writing.

Topics Covered

  • Sharpening sentences to a point.
  • Finding the real subject, and using it to start the sentence.
  • Selecting active verbs.
  • Confining the sentence to a single object.
  • Resolving ambiguity by properly structuring indirect objects and other modifiers.
  • Stacking sentences into functional paragraphs.
  • Writing the key sentence.
  • Writing supporting sentences.
  • Ordering sentences to follow a narrative path.
  • Ensuring each paragraph has a single point.
  • Types of paragraphs
  • Single topic paragraphs
  • Multi-topic paragraphs
  • Overall narrative structure
  • Ordering paragraphs to improve flow
  • Transitions between paragraphs
  • Narrative entries and exits
Contact Me

This course is a full-day workshop for up to 12 students. The cost is 2500 Euro or 2650 CHF, plus travel expenses. A small classroom with large tables is most suitable, though students may also sit at individual desks. I require use of projector with a VGA connector, and it is helpful if the classroom has wireless access. The price includes all materials for student use.

Writing a Journal Article: From Concept to Publication
(A 1-4 day course)

Researchers, including PhD students, postdocs, faculty and clinicians, are required to publish their research in peer-reviewed journals. Many researchers consider this a difficult, or even the most difficult, part of the writing process. The course focuses on the process of writing and getting published, using students’ own research studies.

Course Details

Objective: Here you will learn organizational strategies that will help you begin writing your manuscript the moment you formulate your research question, and that will turn paper writing from a vague and confusing process into a rational, structured (and enjoyable) activity.
Course structure:
This course can be adapted to your needs and circumstances. It works best as a 2+ day course, with at least a day between sessions, which gives participants time to write. But it can also be offered as a compact 1-day lecture course with in-class exercises.
What you will need
The course is designed for participants who are actively working on research projects. It is more theoretical for participants who have just begun projects, but can be offered as a practical workshop for participants who already have preliminary results.

Assessment: The goal is to produce a publishable article, so your assessment will be based on your progress towards that end.

Example of a 2-day course

  • The structure of scientific narrative
    • The message of a paper
    • Structuring the story
  • Outlining a scientific paper
    • Integrating medical checklists
    • Analyzing your target journal
  • Writing Methods & Results

By the end of Day One, you will have a clear outline of your article, and be ready to write most of your Methods & Results.

Day Two is a writing day: you will use what you have learned to finish analyzing your target journal(s), complete your outline and finish your Methods & Results sections. Though this is a “free day,” I urge you to focus on writing for at least four hours.
  • Writing a Discussion section
  • Writing an Introduction
  • Writing abstracts
  • Writing a cover letter

Optional components for longer courses:

  • Managing co-authors
  • Improving figures & tables
  • Creating a conference poster
  • Writing a peer-review
  • Writing responses to reviewers
Contact Me