10 ways for non-native speakers of English to develop scientific writing skills

English is not your mother tongue and it makes you feel overwhelmed in grad school? You need to read & write in English, but feel insecure about it? Reading seems to take ages and you are dreading the time when you have to start writing up your results… But don’t despair! Follow these 10 tips and develop your English writing skills “on the side”, as you go about your everyday research work. Continue reading

How to write a whole paper in a week

Writing up a full paper in a single week? Maybe you think that’s impossible. Yet I have done it repeatedly, and so have students in my courses. This is an exceptionally joyful (even if demanding) experience: being so productive just feels great! You are not wasting any time, and a paper produced in one go is typically coherent and nice to read. Even if you are a slow writer, you can write a whole paper in a single week — if you follow my strategy. Read below about what you need to prepare and how to approach this project. Continue reading

11 tips for boosting your writing productivity

All scientists need to write — and we need to write a lot. Whether it’s a proposal, research article or a thesis: there is always some kind of writing project waiting to be completed. But scientific writing is pretty hard, so we tend to procrastinate on it — and suffer even more as a result. Though what if I told you that it’s possible to achieve a high level of writing output on a regular basis, avoiding the feelings of failure and guilt? These 11 tips show you how you can skyrocket your writing productivity. Continue reading

Interview with Prof. Matthias Rillig

Prof. Matthias Rillig is an outgoing person with a big genuine smile, defeating the stereotype of an uptight always-serious scientist. He is the head of a large and lively research group “Ecology of plants” at the Freie Universität in Berlin. Recently, I’ve given a talk on scientific writing in Matthias’s group, and surprisingly realized that most of the group members — including Matthias — tested as the creative bottom-up writer type. In this interview, Matthias talks about his experience as a writing scientist and his approach to scientific writing. Continue reading

How to gain & keep focus for writing

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Our ability to focus is a precious resource. And in this distracted world, it’s becoming increasingly rare. There are too many things pulling at our attention: too many articles to read, too many talks and seminars, too many topics to think about… But as scientists, we need to concentrate deeply to advance our research — and to write up our findings clearly & effectively. So what can you do when your mind refuses to settle in and focus on the work at hand? Below you will find a tried & proven *minimal* approach how you can gain focus — and keep it throughout the day. Continue reading

Six principles for writing a better first draft faster

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Do you feel like scientific writing is a long, draining process? Maybe you are a perfectionist who struggles with each sentence and questions every other word. Or you can write down a draft quickly, only to realize that it is no good and you have to start over again. In any case, learning the principles of effective drafting helps you write better first drafts faster, increasing your writing output and at the same time improving the quality of your texts. Continue reading

Freewriting: learn to write clearly, easily & with joy

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Bottom-up writers do it instinctivelly, top-down writers can learn it to combat the writer’s block. Freewriting is a simple tool that will not only improve your writing, but also sharpen your thinking. And even make writing fun (again)! Try out the basic technique as well as its variations and experience the joyful freedom of writing. Continue reading

How to read & understand scientific articles when you are not a scientist — Part 2: Effective reading strategy

You would like to read & understand scientific papers even though you are not a scientist? That’s surely possible — if you know how to approach the complex and deeply specialized scientific literature. The first part of this mini-series discussed how to find the relevant articles and get access to them. In this second part you’ll learn an effective strategy for reading original research articles. Continue reading

How to read & understand scientific articles when you are not a scientist — Part 1: Finding the relevant papers

You are not a scientist, but sometimes you wish you could read and understand scientific papers? Maybe you never dared. Maybe you don’t know how to approach it. And maybe you already tried, but found the papers impenetrable, so you gave up. Certainly, scientific articles are not written for the general public. However, with the right strategy you can use scientific literature to find and extract relevant information whenever you need it. Continue reading

Speeding up the revision process: strategies, problems & solutions

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The revision phase of scientific writing can feel overwhelming: many things need to be fixed at different levels. But where should you start? And how should you proceed? If your revision process is chaotic and you are jumping from place to place, from issue to issue, there is no wonder you feel frustrated and progress too slowly. Continue reading