Scientific Writing in English


Course Objective

The aim of this course is to provide Master’s students with the
essential linguistic know-how for writing a scientific article in
English that is well organized, idiomatically and stylistically
appropriate and grammatically correct.
At the end of the course students
 know how to structure a scientific article;
 know what the information elements are in parts of their scientific
 know how to produce clear and well-structured texts on complex
 know how to cite sources effectively;
 know how to write well-structured and coherent paragraphs;
 know how to construct effective sentences;
 know what collocations are and how to use them appropriately;
 know how to adopt the right style (formal style, cohesive style,
conciseness, hedging)
 know how to avoid the pitfalls of English grammar;
 know how to use punctuation marks correctly;
 know what their own strengths and weaknesses are in writing;
 know how to give effective peer feedback.

Final texts may contain occasional spelling, grammatical or word choice
errors, but these will not distract from the general effectiveness of
the text.

Course Content

The course will start with a general introduction to scientific writing
in English. Taking a top-down approach, we will then analyse the
structure of a scientific article in more detail. As we examine each
section of an article, we will peel back the layers and discover how
paragraphs are structured, what tools are available to ensure coherence
within and among paragraphs, how to write effective and grammatically
correct sentences and how to choose words carefully and use them

Topics addressed during the course include the following:
 Structuring a scientific article
 Considering reading strategies: who is your readership? How do they
read your text? What do they expect? How does that affect your writing?
 Writing well-structured and coherent paragraphs
 Composing effective sentences (sophisticated word order, information
 Academic tone and style: hedging – why, how, where?
 Using the passive effectively
 Understanding grammar (tenses, word order, etc.)
 Understanding punctuation
 Referring to sources: summarising, paraphrasing, quoting (how and
 Avoiding plagiarism
 Vocabulary development: using appropriate vocabulary and collocations

Teaching Methods

Scientific Writing in English is an eight-week course and consists of 2
contact hours a week. Students are required to spend at least 6 to 8
hours of homework per week. They will work through a phased series of
exercises that conclude with the requirement to write several text parts
(Introduction, Methods or Results section, Discussion and Abstract).
Feedback on the writing assignments is given by the course teacher and
by peers.

Method of Assessment

Students will receive the three course credits when they meet the
following requirements:
 Students hand in three writing assignments (Introduction, Methods,
 Students get a pass mark for all writing assignments;
 Students provide elaborate peer feedback (Introduction, Methods,
Discussion, Abstract);
 Students attend at least 7 out of 8 sessions;
 Students are well prepared for each session (i.e. study the theory for
each session and participate in online discussions about the theory);
 Students participate actively in class and respect deadlines;
 Students do not plagiarise or self-plagiarise.

Writing assignments:
1. If students have a BSc thesis in a traditional thesis form (e.g.,
20+ pages) and written in English, they may use this for the writing
2. If students have a BSc thesis in a traditional form (e.g., 20+
pages) written in another language than English, they may use this for
the writing assignments.
3. If students have written a paper or report in English that’s not
already in article form, they may use this for the writing assignment.
4. If students are working on their MSc thesis or internship report
when taking Scientific Writing in English, they may use this for the
writing assignments. They will have to notify their supervisor to make
sure that they won’t be accused of self-plagiarism.
5. If students cannot or do not wish to use any of the
above-mentioned texts for the writing assignments (1-4), they are
expected to do a limited Literature Review on a topic in their field of
research, using at least 5 articles.

Students are not allowed to use the following texts for the writing
1. A BSc thesis written in English that’s already in article form.
2. A MSc thesis written in English that’s already in article form
(and that has already been marked).
3. An internship report written in English that’s already in
article form (and that has already been marked).
4. A paper or report written in English that’s already in article


Effective Scientific Writing: An Advanced Learner's guide to Better
English, 4th edition (February 2016) (A. Bolt & W. Bruins, ISBN 978 90
8659 617 1). VU bookstore: €27.95.

Target Audience

This course is only open to students of the Master's programmes
of the Faculty of Sciences. These students are only
eligible to the course if they have already conducted scientific
research (e.g. for their Bachelor’s thesis) or if they will be working
on a research project when taking Scientific Writing in English.

Additional Information

- To do well, students are expected to attend all lessons. Group
schedules are to be found at and on Canvas.
- A VUnet registration for this course automatically gives access
to the corresponding Canvas site. Group registration only takes
place via Canvas (general groups: registration by students following
FALW programmes offering this course; groups assigned to specific
studies: registration through programme and course coordinator).
- Make sure Scientific Writing in English does not overlap with
another course.
- If you have registered for a group in Canvas, you are
expected to attend all sessions (eight). If you decide to withdraw from
the course, do so in time in VUnet. This will avoid a 'fail' on your
grade list for not taking part in this course and allows other students
to fill in a possible very wanted group spot.
- For specific Canvas matters concerning this course, please
- Full time students with their main registration at VU will be given
preferential treatment for placement in this course. For secondary
students proof of enrollment is not a guarantee of placement.

General Information

Course Code AM_1156
Credits 3 EC
Period P3+4
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator M. van den Hoorn
Examiner M. van den Hoorn
Teaching Staff

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Study Group