Welcome to Writing in the Sciences (WITS)
Welcome! As professional writing consultants, we understand that writing can be challenging and time-consuming, and that many science writers often avoid the writing process until the end stages of their research study. We want to support your progress to help you start early and write sections regularly throughout your research process.
WITS is a series of modules, interviews, and resources designed to provide science researchers and post-secondary students with practical guidance on how to use clarity and precision in scientific writing. We will introduce you to strategies and techniques that will help you approach your scientific writing with confidence.
Two modules are currently available. The first module provides a detailed approach for writing a scientific research article with strategies for outlining key components and for mapping individual sections. The second module focuses on using storytelling techniques from screenwriting to write an engaging scientific research article. This site is a work-in-progress, and additional content will be added, such as interviews with professional science communicators about how to write for a variety of audiences.
The following welcome video provides information about us, the project developers, and about what this website offers you as a writer in the sciences.
SG: Welcome to Writing in the Sciences Online. I’m Dr. Sarah Gibbons. JS: And I’m Dr. Jodie Salter, and we are the project developers and co-creators of this site. SG: With Writing in the Sciences Online, we’re aiming to provide an alternative mode of access to our content for U of G researchers and broaden our support for writers outside the University. I’m a Writing Specialist with Writing Services at the University of Guelph. I’ve been at the University since 2016. Before coming to the university, I completed a PhD in English at the University of Waterloo and before that, I worked as an editor and technical writer for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in Ottawa. Since 2017, I’ve been facilitating an in-person Writing in the Sciences workshop that formed the foundation for this project. JS: I’ve been an academic Writing Specialist since 2007. I started my career in writing centres at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and I moved to the University of Guelph Writing Services in 2010. For almost a decade, I have created and taught academic writing programs, and I am currently working on the online learning modules for the Bodies In Translation Knowledge Platform, a SSHRC-funded project. I’ve created numerous online and print resources, many of which can be found on the U of G Library website and on my own Youtube channel. SG: With Writing in the Sciences Online, we’ve developed modules that are designed to help writers address some of the challenges that they face with scientific writing. Some of these challenges include feeling overwhelmed and uncertain of where to start, not knowing what information to include in different scientific writing genres, struggling to articulate ideas and concepts in a clear and concise way, and navigating the transition from writing course assignments like lab reports to writing publishable research articles and literature reviews. JS: The first module we have developed is writing academic research articles in the sciences. This module consists of seven sections that walk you through the writing process from beginning to end. In our “Getting Started” section, we teach how to analyze research articles in your field, and we provide a research article mapping template to help you create a strong outline. In the sections on writing introductions, methods, results, and discussion, we outline the key components that you need to address in research articles, and we share tips on how to communicate your research effectively. In our final sections, we teach how to write concise abstracts and titles, and we provide strategies for revising and responding to feedback. SG: Our second module, developed by ecologist Christopher Greyson-Gaito, focuses on how to use storytelling techniques from Hollywood screenwriting to write an engaging scientific research paper. This module teaches how to create a storyboard to map out your research article from beginning to end and how to use the ‘and, but, therefore’ technique to write an effective abstract. SG: This website also houses interviews with journalists and other science communication professionals who provide insight into how to communicate your scientific research to different audiences. JS: This project is a collaboration between the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare and Writing Services at the University of Guelph. Our work was funded by the NSERC Science Communication Skills Grant. Stay tuned for upcoming modules that will help you further strengthen your skills as a scientific writer and communicator.
How to Use the Site (For Students and Faculty)
These modules will help writers get started with their writing, create strong outlines, identify the key information that they need to include in scientific writing genres, and make the transition from writing for assignments to publications.
The modules can be completed in any order. We recommend that writers choose a module, start with the first section, and complete the associated worksheets and reflection activities along the way. These worksheets and activities provide writers with opportunities to develop new skills, practice techniques, and apply strategies discussed in the modules to their own scientific writing.
About this Site
This site was a 2020 pandemic production, created in home offices by Dr. Sarah Gibbons and Dr. Jodie Salter, Writing Specialists with the Learning & Curriculum Support Team in the McLaughlin Library at the University of Guelph. This project was made possible by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Science Communication Skills Training Grant.
Dr. Sarah Gibbon and Dr. Jodie Salter are co-PIs on the grant and lead content creators and web developers for WITS Online project.
This project was funded with the generous support of the NSERC Science Communication Skills Grant program, the University of Guelph’s Research Innovation Office, and the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare. We would like to thank all the following contributors for their time and support:
- Dr. Georgia Mason, Director of the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare and Professor, Department of Integrative Biology at University of Guelph, as our co-PI on the grant
- Lenore Latta who in her former role as Writing Specialist developed the in-person workshop series at the University of Guelph in 2013 to support graduate student writers in the sciences
- Christopher Greyson-Gaito, University of Guelph PhD candidate and ecologist, for his creation of the module Storytelling in Science Writing
- Marinette Fargo, formerly from the University of Guelph’s Digital Accessibility Resource Centre, who provided accessibility support for our webpages and downloadable resources
- Tiffany Murphy from the McLaughlin Library’s Communications team who developed the Writing in the Sciences graphics
- University of Guelph undergraduate students: Kaleigh Kerr, for website development; and Lujayn Mahmoud and Amrit Rooprai, for reviewing and providing feedback on the content
Accessibility is a dynamic process, and we are continually working to improve our services. If you find any part of this site inaccessible to you or if you have any suggestions for how we might make it more accessible in content, language, tone, style, etc., we would love your feedback. Email us at email@example.com.
For educational purposes, we’ve created fictional excerpts that resemble passages from scientific research articles. The fictional examples are intended to illustrate writing techniques and are not designed to teach scientific content. Please note that the scientific content and data in these passages and videos is fictional.
This site features reflection activities that collect information in fillable forms. These activities provide writers with opportunities to reflect on their process, practice their skills, and apply specific techniques to their own writing. Please note that all information collected in fillable forms is recorded anonymously and will be used only for program evaluation, improvements, and reporting.
Unless otherwise noted, all other images that appear on this site are copyright-free images that are free to distribute without attribution under the Pixabay license.
The main content of this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution – NonCommercial – Sharealike license, apart from specific sections that will have a separate license indicated. A Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-Sharealike license means that others may build on or alter content when it is re-shared. The content must be only used for non-commercial purposes and the original work must be attributed to the content creators. Users must also license the new work under the same license. For more information about Creative Commons licensing.
We are interested in your feedback to help us improve this site. Our survey includes demographic and feedback questions, and it will take approximately 2 minutes to complete. All answers are anonymous. We greatly appreciate you taking the time to provide your thoughts and suggestions.
This project was made possible by an NSERC Science Communication Skills Training Grant.