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Writing Biomedical Research Papers

This rigorous course emphasizes that the goal of writing is clarity and reviews how clarity can be achieved via the basic components (words, sentences, and paragraphs) of all expository writing, as applied to each section of a biomedical reserach paper. The course and its associated textbook first reviews the special expectations of each section of a paper in each component and then reviewing examples of both well and poorly written components. Although students do not actually write any new text, they are expected to explicate and edit numerous examples of bad writing. Each hour and half of class requires about three times that amount of time to read the text and to work on its exercises. I try to keep the class interactive and lively by using an Aristotelan approach of asking questions of the students and by adding some of my dry humor.
Dr. Robert B. Innis, M.D., Ph.D.
Chief, Section on PET Neuroimaging Sciences
Molecular Imaging Branch
NIMH, IRP

REQUIREMENTS: This course is not a basic introduction to writing; instead, it is an intermediate to advanced level course. Students are expected, for example, to be proficient in English vocabulary, to know the parts of a sentence (subject, verb, and predicate), to readily know parts of speech (noun, adverb, adjective, etc.), and to differentiate active from passive voice. From prior classes, students who lacked these skills received little benefit from the course. To summarize, students appropriate for this course might well be novices at scientific writing, but they should not be novices at writing per se.
Session Date Topic
1 9/3/2014 Introduction: Pages 1-8
2 9/8/2014 Chapter 1: Word Choice
3 9/10/2014 Chapter 2: Sentence Structure - first half
4 9/15/2014
5 9/22/2014 Chapter 2: Sentence Structure - second half
6 9/24/2016
7 9/29/2014 Chapter 3: Paragraph Structure - first half
8 10/1/2014 Chapter 3: Paragraph Structure - second half
9 10/6/2014
10 10/8/2014 Chapter 4: Introduction
11 10/15/2014 Introduction: exercise
12 10/20/2014
13 10/22/2014 Introduction: hypothesis-testing paper
14 10/27/2014 Chap 5: Materials & Methods; SI units; verb tense
15 10/29/2014
16 11/3/2014 Chap 5: Exercises 5.1 & 5.2
17 11/5/2014 Chapter 6: Results (first 80%)
18 11/10/2014
19 11/12/2014 Chapter 6: Results (last 20%) plus Chap 7
20 11/19/2014 Chap 7: Discussion
21 11/24/2014
22 12/1/2014 Chap 7: Exercise 7.2 & Chap 8 graphs
23 12/3/2014 Chap 8: Graphs plus Briscoe’s chap on graphs
24 12/8/2014
25 12/11/2014*Thurs Chap 8: Tables
26 12/15/2014 Chap 8: Abstract
27 12/17/2014
28 12/22/2014 Chap 9: Title & seek students’ opinions of course
TIME: Mondays & Wednesdays 3:30 - 5:00 PM (except *Thursday
12/11/2014)
LOCATION: TBD
TEXTBOOK:
Essentials of Writing Biomedical Research Papers, Second Edition, Mimi Zeiger, McGraw-Hill: New York, 2000.