PhD life: improving my scientific writing skills

Doing a PhD is not only about doing research, is it also about growing as a researcher and learning new skills.

To learn those skills, I go to conferences, talk with coworkers and follow courses. At the moment I am following the course ‘The Art of Scientific Writing’. While I have the classes on the campus of Utrecht University, it is offered by the company Artesc. A few months ago I already followed their course ‘The Art of Presenting Science’ and it was a real eye-opener. Seemingly vague terms as ‘voice direction’, ‘attention with yourself’ and ‘letting go’ led to huge presenting improvements in all of the participants.

The writing course is not as mind blowing as the presenting course, but it is a useful and fun course nonetheless. The course consists of three full-day meetings, once every two weeks. As preparation for each course day we write (parts of) articles about our research. During the course days, we get taught some theory about writing, but mostly spend the time sharing our writing experiences and giving feedback on each other’s work.

Apart from me, there are seven other PhD students following this course, only one of whom also works with plants. Although we do not get clear tips and tricks, talking about our work with such a diverse group of people is very helpful. It is good to hear how other people go about writing and what kind of help they get from their supervisors. Also, getting feedback on my work from scientists outside of my field in itself already makes the course worth going to. It is good to hear what is clear and interesting to people not into my topic and what is confusing. After all, as the teacher said, further employers or grant agencies might very well not be in my exact field either, but they will read my papers to judge my work.

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