Developing skills in scientific writing: Next editions

Developing skills in scientific writing: Next editions

Biomedical professionals need to be able to communicate their research proposals and findings effectively in writing. However, most professionals receive little specific training in scientific writing. Many have mistaken views about what good writing is and how to achieve it. Writing in a language that is not your mother tongue makes it even more difficult to ensure that a text is well organized, coherent, and easily understood. Although most professionals quickly learn to read English-language texts in their special areas of interest, most fail to develop the skills they need to write successful grant applications and articles.

All scientists can learn to write competently. Writing skills can be learned, improved, and refined. Skills are based on knowledge, but knowledge alone is not enough. Developing skills requires putting knowledge into practice. This training seminar aims to help students improve their skills in writing scientific English. Students will learn the principles underlying effective written communication in science and put them into practice in a relaxed atmosphere of open discussion and feedback.


John Giba
Born and educated (BSc, University of Pittsburgh, 1984) in the U.S.A., John has taught English in Spain since 1985. He specializes in helping scientists and healthcare practitioners prepare papers for international journals and oral presentations for congresses. He has given presentations and workshops in several courses in biomedical English. He coordinates and teaches a module in scientific English for various Master’s degree programs offered through the medical schools of the University of Barcelona and the Autonomous University of Barcelona. He has coauthored three books about scientific communication: Surgical English (2010), Inglés Médico y Sanitario (2010), and Preparing and Delivering Scientific Presentations (2011).

Anna Alguersuari
After graduating from high school in the U.S.A. (Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 1996), Anna earned an MD from the University of Barcelona (H. Clínic, 1998-2004) and completed her residency in radiology at the UDIAT Diagnostic Center at the Corporació Sanitària Parc Taulí in Sabadell. She went on to do a fellowship in interventional radiology in Belgium (Ziekelhuis Oost-Limburg, 2009) and returned to accept a position in the Vascular and Interventional Radiology Unit at the Parc Taulí. As a member of the Board of the Radiology Trainees Forum, under the umbrella of the European Society of Radiology, she coordinated the translation of radiological cases in Spanish into English. She recently served on the faculty of an international hands-on workshop in embolization held in Zaragoza in 2010-2011.


1. Guiding principles
In this module, students work together to establish the principles underlying effective scientific writing.

2. Saying what you really mean
In this first module, we focus on avoiding ambiguity through choosing the right words and putting them together correctly. Specific topics include word choice, adverb collocation, participle phrases, and punctuation.

3. Typical mistakes due to the influence of Spanish
Many mistakes Spanish biomedical scientists make when writing scientific English are due to interference from Spanish. This module examines some of the mistakes in spelling, vocabulary, and grammar that Spanish writers often make in English texts.

4. Common pitfalls
This module deals with tricky aspects of writing like the inherent difficulty of English orthography, the use of Latin plurals, and different varieties of English.

5. The big picture
This module deals with writing titles, summary statements, and abstracts.

6. Keeping it short and simple
Scientific writing deals with complex material; unfortunately, mistaken ideas about what constitutes good writing lead many writers to add unnecessary complexity to their texts. This module focuses on how to eliminate noise in your writing, so your message comes through loud and clear. Specific topics covered include word choice, sentence construction (concrete verbs vs. abstract nouns, active vs. passive), and eliminating the superfluous (tautologies, double negatives, double prepositions, empty phrases, wordy expressions).

7. Keeping the thread
Good writers work hard to make sure their readers can follow their ideas. This module focuses on how to eliminate obstacles that interrupt the flow of your ideas. Specific topics covered include arranging text in parallel constructions, ensuring consistency in terminology and language, using abbreviations effectively, and making smooth transitions.

8. Getting published
This module looks at choosing a journal, following instructions, writing effective cover letters for article submission and resubmission, and responding to reviewers’ comments.

9. Checking what you’ve learned
To test and review the main points covered in the other modules, student’s will do various tasks including rewriting an abstract.

10. Moving on
To finish up, we show some techniques for checking your work and discuss resources that can help you continue to improve your scientific writing.

General information:
– The seminar is given in English.
– Two days course, from 9 am to 6 pm.
– An intermediate or higher level of English is recommended.
– The number of participants is limited to 25.
– The €100 inscription fee (with discounts for the collaborating institutions employees) includes refreshments and lunch both days.
– A detailed program and course materials will be delivered at the beginning of the course.
– Participants are responsible for their own travel and accommodation expenses.
– At the end of the seminar, each participant will receive a certificate of having completed the course.
– Students will be divided into two groups for modules based on brief presentation of relevant subject matter combined with practical exercises.

Courses accredited by the Consell Català de Formació Continuada de les Professions Sanitàries (Catalan Council for the Ongoing Training of Health Professions). Comisión de Formación Continuada del Sistema Nacional de Salud (Ongoing Training Commission of the National Health System) with 2.7 credits (09/016848-MD)


Next editions:

· Santiago de Compostela, September, 25-26

Coming soon

Collaborating institutions: CIMUS