Successful Scientific Writing

Successful scientific writing takes an active, participatory approach to help students in public health learn how to communicate the findings of their research and investigations more effectively and expedite publication of their manuscripts. Working in small groups, students spend much of their class time critiquing actual published and unpublished manuscripts and solving a wide range of exercises that exemplify the real-world challenges that authors face. Free-form, in-class discussions make it possible for class members to learn from one another’s experiences. The material is tailored for use in Master’s- or Doctoral-level degree programs, as well as in programs leading to certification, such as the Humphrey Fellow’s Program. Training modules can also be adapted for use in distance-based learning.

Major components of the course include …

  • The basic sections of a scientific article: the purpose, elements and organization of each section.
  • Principles of style for writing in public health and epidemiology.
  • Systematic approaches to the process of writing and publishing an article in a peer review journal.
  • Effective strategies for dealing with requests of journal editors and reviewers.

Learning Objectives Associated with Competencies

  1. List the basic sections of a scientific article.
  2. Describe the purpose and organization of each section of a scientific article.
  3. Describe the elements of each section of a scientific article.
  4. Understand the value of drafting an abstract before writing the article and then finalizing the abstract after completing the article.
  5. Understand specific strategies to ensure that elements of the abstract are both internally consistent as well as fully consistent with the content of the body of the article.
  6. Describe a systematic process for developing a title for the article.
  7. Describe guidelines for effective use of the active and passive voices.
  8. Describe the value of and strategies for obtaining feedback from coauthors and colleagues in “chunks” and on a frequent rather than occasional basis.
  9. Describe the value of selecting a target journal before writing an article.
  10. Explain the value of preparing tables and figures before writing the text of the results section.
  11. Explain why it is essential to read the target journal’s instructions for authors before writing the article.
  12. Understand how to use digital resources to review the literature and publish.
  13. Write and revise text from published and unpublished manuscripts in ways that improve clarity and brevity.
  14. Revise a manuscript based on the principles presented in class.
  15. Explain how applying the “new/useful” test can help an author decide when NOT to write a paper.
  16. Discuss effective strategies for dealing with the requests of journal editors and reviewers.