Writing laboratory


Collaboration with Dr. Adam Wilkins (scientific writing trainer).

Writing laboratory is an intense practical format where participants develop a complete draft of a research article in a single week, writing one major section per day (see Schedule). Extensive writing sessions are complemented with short lectures providing writing instruction as well as productivity tips. Essential part of the course are daily one-on-one sessions with one of the trainers, which comprise feedback on participants’ texts and an opportunity for discussion.

Moreover, the week-long Writing laboratory is supplemented with an online course that helps participants prepare for the Writing laboratory (4 weeks prior the intense week) and leads the participants step-by-step through the process of revising & finalizing their manuscripts (4 weeks after the intense week).

The course is best suited for both inexperienced PhD students getting ready to write their first research article as well as seasoned scientists frustrated with writing, feeling that their process is ineffective and takes too long. Participants are guided to experiment with their writing strategies, learning how to progress faster.

Weekly schedule

During the Writing laboratory week (Days 1-5), participants write one major section of a research article per day. Each participant receives daily detailed feedback from one of the trainers on the text written the previous day. On the last day, participants receive advice on revision strategies & writing productivity and create a plan for finalizing their manuscripts in a timely manner.

Day Participants’ activity Lecture topic Trainer feedback
1 Write Methods Methods; Results Preliminary Abstract; Storyline
2 Write Results Introduction Methods
3 Write Introduction Discussion Results
4 Write Discussion Abstract & Title Introduction
5 Write Abstract
Revising strategies Discussion

Daily schedule

Each morning begins with a short warm up, and continues with structured writing sessions. The lecture and one-on-one feedback sessions with a trainer are scheduled in the afternoon.

Time Activity
9:00 — 9:30 Warm up
9:30 — 10:30 Writing
10:30 — 11:00 Coffee break
11:00 — 12:30 Writing
12:30 — 13:30 Lunch break
13:30 — 15:00 Writing*
15:00 — 15:30 Coffee break
15:30 — 16:00 Lecture
16:00 — 17:00 Writing*

*Parallel trainer feedback sessions (30min per participant)

Participant preparation

In order to maximally benefit from the Writing Laboratory and finish the first draft during the course, participants should come to the course well prepared:

  • All data should be collected, analyses finished and figures (& other display objects) created.
  • To guide their writing, participants are asked to bring to the course a preliminary Abstract as well as 1-2 research articles from their field published in their target journal.
  • Prior to the course, we recommend to discuss with the co-authors the intended main message / storyline, figures & tables, and evtl. further details of the manuscript.
  • Especially for first-time authors, we suggest to prepare the relevant literature in advance, as well as note down (some of) the points for the Introduction & Discussion section.

About the trainers

Dr. Martina Michalikova is a biologist and computational neuroscientist who obtained her doctoral title in 2016 from the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. During her PostDoc period she acquired further qualification as a writing consultant specializing in scientific writing in English as a second language. Since 2017, she is working as a freelance trainer in scientific writing & publishing, giving workshops, leading writing groups, and providing individual writing support as a coach & consultant.

Dr. Adam Wilkins is a geneticist and evolutionary biologist who obtained his doctoral title in 1969 from the University of Washington, WA. Following a period of experimental work, he entered the fields of scientific writing and editing. Over the past two decades, he has written many reviews and hypothesis articles as well as several books. His current book Making Faces: the evolutionary origins of the human face was published by Harvard University Press in 2017. He was editor of BioEssays from 1990 to 2008 and since 2009, he is editor of the “Perspectives” section of GENETICS. Since 2005 he is teaching workshops in scientific writing.

Comments from previous participants

I strongly advice other colleagues to join the Writing Laboratory. I saw myself doing within 5 days things that I would never have been able to do within a month!

Seeing what can be done in one week is great → believe in that and try to have fun while doing it.

Don’t be afraid to write the manuscript even if it is your first one. I found it enjoyable!