Course on scientific writing for master’s students in Life Sciences

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will have demonstrated an ability to

  1. write a research article that follows the main discourse conventions of [their field],
  2. structure their work for optimal clarity and impact,
  3. apply the rules of referencing,
  4. write with accuracy and in an appropriate academic style,
  5. make good use of feedback from peers and teachers to improve their own scientific production.

Ways of working and activities

  • Students are assigned the task of writing up a research article on a topic in their field. The topic is provided by the students’ subject teacher and based on, for example
    • lab work carried out by the students themselves, or
    • data provided by the subject teacher in conjunction with a substance course co-occurring with the language and communication course.
  • Students compile an electronic mini-corpus of about six recent journal articles from the same field.
  • The course proceeds, with an activity sequence as follows for each section of the article in turn (Introduction section, Materials and Methods, Results and Discussion, Abstract and referencing – not necessarily in this order):


Study phase


●   Input:

o  The key ideas can be introduced, for example, through short videos created for the purpose (e.g. Screencast-o-matic, VideoScribe, Powtoon).

o  Several short videos may be needed for each section of the report. Alternatively, the input could be introduced in classroom sessions, affording more opportunity for discussion.

o  Topics for videos might include typical genre features of each section of the article, cohesive devices (such as connectors and articles), ordering of information elements, stylistic choices, appropriate stance, formulaic “idioms” in the discipline, punctuation and relevant grammar issues.

●   Analysis of articles in mini-corpus

o  In pairs, students analyse the relevant section of 1-2 research articles in their mini-corpus, searching for typical textual features according to a checklist provided.

o  Students then report on their findings to an online discussion forum.

●   Exercises related to the topics introduced

o  The unit for each section of the article is accompanied by exercises as relevant on one or more of the topics introduced (see above).

o  Exercises produced digitally may be pseudo-cloze, matching, multiple choice or true/false (produced, for example, with Word developer tools, Optima, Quizlet, o365 forms)

Writing phase ●   First draft of each section in turn

o  Each student writes up their first draft of the relevant section of the scientific article and submits it to an online learning platform.

Feedback phase ●   Feedback on each section in turn

o  The teacher pairs each student with an opponent, who provides written feedback on their partner’s section of the article according to a checklist provided. Feedback is uploaded in an agreed manner, such as

▪          comments inserted into an original Word document

▪          comments sent to an online discussion forum

o  The teacher also provides written feedback on the topics introduced in the input phase. The teacher’s feedback could be submitted as comments and track changes to a Word document, or written with a stylus in the margins of the student’s text where a touch screen is available.


  • When first drafts of the individual sections are ready, students compile the sections into a cohesive article, which is then submitted to a plagiarism detection program, such as Urkund (
  • After a further round of peer and teacher feedback, with discuss of plagiarism and referencing issues when necessary, students submit the final draft for assessment.

How are students supported?

Students are given

  • clear instructions in an online platform from which all other activities and resources are linked
  • an introduction to the key issues of writing each session in the videos provided
  • an opportunity to check their skills quickly in the online exercises.

The work with the mini-corpus helps the students to develop awareness of the conventions of the discipline.

The teacher is also available to answer questions in a discussion forum for this purpose in the learning platform.

What kind of feedback do students get as their work progresses on their own skills and the development of their skills?

As described above, students receive written feedback from both the teacher and a peer opponent throughout the writing process. Feedback from peers is guided by a checklist.


The student’s text is submitted to the plagiarism-checking program early enough to learn from any problems indicated by the program.


The feedback given focuses on the key issues introduced during the course, such as

  • typical genre features of each section of the article,
  • cohesive devices (such as connectors and articles),
  • ordering of information elements,
  • stylistic choices,
  • appropriate stance,
  • formulaic “idioms” in the discipline,
  • punctuation and
  • relevant grammar issues.

How does it end? What happens next? How is the learning process and experience discussed and reflected upon?

A classroom or online meeting could potentially be organised to reflect on what has been learned and which questions remain, and to set personal goals for personal development out of the course.

Later in the degree, at least some students will be required to write research articles for other courses, and so the learning in the language and communication course will be extended.