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 supplement the Tim Albert method of scientific writing. Herein, we 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 1800 Euro or CHF 2000, 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… And Getting It Published

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: By the end of the course students will be able to write and submit their articles to the appropriate target journal, and have a good chance of having them accepted for publication.

Eligibility: This course is designed for participants who are already writing, or are ready to write their article. Practical exercises will use the student’s own material. The course is suitable for students who use either quantitative or qualitative research methods. There is a version of the course especially for those who must follow the IMRaD (Introduction, Methods, Research, Discussion) structure for scientific publication. The course is not suitable for those who have not yet done their research, conducted their experiments, collected their data, or finished most of the analysis. Note that this is not a course on critical appraisal or English language and grammar. (For those skills see the course Sentences for Scientists.)

Bring an idea for, or a draft of, a journal article/scientific paper and I will help you develop it during the course. If the article is a research study, you should at least have preliminary results of your analysis. If you already have a draft of the text, you should bring this with you.

Assessment: The goal is to produce a publishable article, so your assessment will be based on your progress towards that end. Certificates will be awarded at the end of the course to students who have attended all sessions and made demonstrable progress towards their goal.

Topics Covered

  • Understanding the publication game
  • Understanding the key players
  • Setting the brief
  • Organizing the material
  • Planning the article
  • Writing the article

By the end of Day One, you will have a clear outline for your article, plus a first draft of the Introduction.

Day Two is a writing day: you will use what you have learned to write your articles. Your initial focus is on the Discussion section. Though this is a “free day,” we urge you to set aside all your usual duties and focus on writing alone, for at least four hours. If you finish your Discussion, you may proceed to the Methods and Results sections.

By the end of the day you will have written the first draft of your paper.

Bring your paper (or digital) draft with you to class on Day Three. In the morning of Day Three, I will go over strategies for editing your drafts. In the afternoon, we address the process of finalizing and submitting articles, and responding to provisional acceptance and rejection:

  • Rewriting
  • Adding the extras
  • Dealing with others
  • Completing the package
  • Dealing with reviewers and editors
  • Strategies for failure—and success
  • Setting a personal action plan
Contact Me

This course uses materials and concepts developed by Tim Albert Training. It is best taught as a 3-day workshop for up to 12 students. Days One and Three are teaching days, and Day Two is a writing day for students. The cost for the 3-day workshop is 4000 Euro or CHF 4325, plus travel expenses. It is also possible to request a 1-day introductory workshop where I will review the same concepts, but students will have less time to apply them. The cost for the 1-day workshop is 1500 Euro or CHF 1875.

A small classroom with a large table 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.