High-Impact Writing in Science

Organisator Wageningen Institute of Animal Sciences (WIAS)

ma 6 juli 2015 tot do 9 juli 2015 09:00

Course description

Publishing a high-impact paper or being awarded a big research grant are career makers for a scientist. Writing high-impact science requires polish and politics.  So your success will depend not just on your ability to write clearly and succinctly, but also your ability to identify and communicate with confidence the core messages of your research.  In this workshop, we will learn effective scientific writing and then take what we learned to prepare an actual scientific manuscript.  You will read and edit both published and unpublished scientific manuscripts, and you will prepare your own scientific manuscript.

How this course is different from a writing course:

Course content. This course focuses on writing for high-impact scientific journals and competitive funding agencies.  It therefore cover all aspects of a high-impact manuscript or proposal, from ‘what makes a scientific project high-impact’, over how to write clearly and concisely, how to design clear figures with high information density and a clear message, to editing and the submission process.  Course content is based on bibliographic studies on high-impact scientific publishing.

Course instructor. This course is taught by an active scientist who has published in and reviewed for high-impact journals (Nature, Science), worked as an assistant editor for a scientific journal, and has written and reviewed grant proposals for European and American agencies.  Dr. Ulrike Müller has extensive experience editing scientific manuscripts for non-native speakers. She has worked as an international scientist at eight universities in four countries in Europe, America and Asia, and is currently a professor at California State University Fresno.

Expectations of course participants.  Course participants are able to write in English without mechanical and gross lexical errors.  The participants are planning or are in the process of writing a competitive scientific manuscript or grant proposal. Participants are expected to have scientific data ready to be used in the course (all participants will sign a confidentiality agreement).  Participants will read, edit, and write scientific papers and manuscripts.  The course is tailored for scientific investigators early in their academic career, it assumes a basic knowledge of scientific writing and natural science.  The goal of the course is to produce the core elements of a scientific manuscript, including figures and a bibliography.

Workshop format

The course will be structured like a workshop with short lectures punctuating group and individual tasks, such as preparing, editing and rewriting a draft, and group discussions.  You will do some online fact finding and work through online material, both in and outside of class.  Be prepared to talk about your research in class and to write a short scientific article concerning your research.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this workshop, you should be able to:

  • break your scientific research down into its core arguments
  • build a logical narrative from those core arguments
  • identify and eliminate non-essential facts and concepts from a narrative
  • restructure & formulate sentences to increase their clarity and enhance their functioning within a narrative
  • effectively use and provide peer feedback to quickly develop a rough draft into a final manuscript
  • write and edit a manuscript within a team

Workshop materials

All necessary reading material will be provided as part of the workshop, unless announced otherwise.  Participants need to bring a laptop, notepad and pen.  Ideally, participants have a manuscript in an advanced stage of preparation that you will work on during this workshop.  The course will require participants to access the internet during the course to participate in workshop activities.  All course material will be available through Dropbox.

General information

Target Group        The workshop is aimed at graduate research students and post-docs who have some experience in writing scientific papers and might have taken an introductory course on scientific writing.  This workshop is most useful to researchers who plan to submit grant proposals or hope to publish their research in a high-impact journal. The course is useful for scientists across all disciplines.

Group Size            15-20 participants

Course duration    4 full days (9am to 5pm)

Language              English (Dutch possible if desired)

Self-study hours   1 hour per day

Name instructor     Dr. Ulrike Müller, Associate Professor

                              California State University Fresno

Venue                   Participants receive a message about the

                              course location before the start date

Brief Course Schedule

Day 1

09:00  Building writing teams – name your project  -  Activity 1

10:00  Basic writing rules  -  Lecture 1

10:15  First paragraphs of high-impact papers  -  Activity 2

10:45  Tea break

11:00  First paragraphs, continued  -  Activity 2

12:00  Hiigh impact: most cited | downloaded | core paper  -  Lecture 2

12:30  Lunch

13:30  High-impact papers – speed dating your reader  -  Activity 3

14:45  Tea break

15:00  Structuring high-impact papers: Outlining  -  Lecture 3

15:15  Deconstructing a Science paper  -  Activity 4

16:00  The core of your paper - constructing your story  -  Activity 5

Deliverables Day 1:

Main messages of manuscript 1st Draft of take-home messages

Bring for Day 2:

Data from your research

Literature list for your manuscript or project


Day 2

09:00  High-impact data – visual presentation  -  Lecture 1

09:30  A picture tells 1000 words – Traffic accidents  -  Activity 1

10:45  Tea break

11:00  Design rules for scientific figures  -  Lecture 2

11:50  Making figures for your paper - Activity 2

12:30  Lunch

13:30  Your literature list makes a high impact  -  Lecture 3

13:45  Analyzing your reference list - Activity 3

14:00  Outlining your paper  -  Lecture 4

14:05  Making an outline for a published paper  - Activity 4

14:45  Tea break

15:00  Outlining your paper  -  Activity 5

16:00  Checking that you get your message across - Activity 6

Deliverables Day 2:

Result figures for your manuscript Messages aligned with data

Bring for Day 3:

Your abstract (from conference or manuscript) Literature list for your manuscript or project

Day 3

09:00  From outline to introduction  -  Lecture 1

09:10  Writing an introduction  -  Activity 1

10:45  Tea break

11:00  Editing – some basic rules  -  Lecture 2

11:10  Editing & receiving feedback on your writing  -  Activity 2

12:00  Let’s edit your introduction  - Activity 3

12:30  Lunch

13:30  How to write an abstract  - Lecture 3

13:45  Writing an abstract  - Activity 4

14:45  Tea break

15:00  Writing as a non-native speaker  -  Lecture 4

15:20  Writing as a non-native speaker  -  Activity 5

16:00 Making a model introduction  -  Activity 6

16:30  Structuring your introduction  -  Activity 7

Deliverables Day 3:

Draft of your introduction Draft of your abstract

Bring for Day 4:

Bring the most recent version of your abstract & manuscript


Day 4

09:00  Writing a discussion  -  Lecture 1

09:10  Making a model discussion  - Activity 1

09:50  Outline & write your discussion  - Activity 2

10:45  Tea break

11:00  What gets your paper rejected?  -  Lecture 2

11:40  Assemble your draft manuscript  -  Activity 3

12:30  Lunch

13:30  What reviewers and editors want - Lecture 3

13:45  Peer review of draft manuscripts  - Activity 4

14:45  Tea break

15:00  Cooling your jets – receiving reviews  - Activity 5

15:40  Cover letter & submission process  - Lecture 4

16:00  Course evaluation & open discussion  - Activity 6

17:00  The end

Deliverables Day 4:

Draft of your discussion Peer review of your draft