Stanford’s Online Course: Writing In The Sciences

Stanford’s Online Learning is a programme of Stanford University that provides education with OpenedX platform to students around the world by creativity and innovation in online learning. The OpenedX  in the queue of online courses is providing a new free online course ‘Writing In The Sciences’. The course topic is ‘Medicine and Health’ which teaches scientists to become more effective writers . Non science applicants can also be benefited from the training imparted in the initial four weeks, in which general principles of effective writing will be taught. This course helps students to become more effective writers by using practical examples and exercises. Topics studied under  this course include: principles of good writing, tricks for writing faster with less anxiety, the format of a scientific manuscript and issues in publication and peer review.

In the first four weeks of the course, students will learn about the principles of effective writing, examples of good and bad writing, and tips for making the writing process easier, which will also be helpful for non science students. In the next four weeks, the focus of study will be on examining issues specific to scientific writing, including: authorship, peer review, the format of an original manuscript and communicating science. Students will watch video lectures, complete quizzes and editing exercises, write two short papers and edit each others’ work.

The basic principles of good writing is to write in a clear and concise style, there should be no room for words, phrases and sentences that do not contribute anything significant. The paragraphs should be consistent, and well organized. Some of the features of writing may vary from subject to subject. Proper understanding of how the distinctive features of science writing reflect the activities and goals of science will help to become a more proficient writer of scientific writing style.Theories in the sciences are based upon precise mathematical models, specific experimental data sets, or some combination of the two. Therefore, scientists must use precise, concrete language to evaluate and explain such theories, whether mathematical or conceptual.

Course Duration

The course will start from September 24, 2013 for the duration of 8 weeks and students should require to spend 4 to 8 hours per week for this course.

Course Content

First week lectures; Introduction to principles of effective writing
Second week lectures; Principles of effective writing (verbs)
Third week lectures; Crafting better sentences and paragraphs
Fourth week lectures; Organization; and streamlining the writing process
Fifth week lectures; The format of an original manuscript
Sixth week lectures; Reviews, commentaries, and opinion pieces; and the publication process
Seventh week lectures; Issues in scientific writing (plagiarism, authorship, ghostwriting, reproducible research)
Eighth week lectures; How to do a peer review; and how to communicate with the lay public.


Applicants should have good command over English.

About Instructor

The course will be taught by Kristin Sainani, Clinical Assistant Professor at Stanford University and also a health and science writer. He has completed MS in Statistics and PhD in Epidemiology from Stanford University and science writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is teaching Statistics and Writing at Stanford for a decade and has received several ‘Excellence in Teaching Awards’ from the graduate program in epidemiology.


Students pass with at least 60 percent will receive a certificate and those who score at least 90 percent will receive a certificate with distinction.

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