Academic Writing 1: Composing an Excellent Academic Text - ONLINE (2023-IV)

Course description

Academic writing is one of the more important skills any researcher should have. No matter how brilliant or innovate your research, it is of little value if you cannot communicate your insights clearly and convincingly in scientific articles, so that peer researchers can both verify and build on it. They say the best scientists are also the best writers. Fortunately, writing is a skill that you can learn, and the learning process can be a fun one if given the right tools.

In this 8-week course, you will learn how to improve your writing strategies, build up your text, structure your writing, and write in a clear and professional academic style. Learning takes place through e-learning modules on the ULearning platform, supplemented with several online meetings.


A Solis-id is a requirement for this course. Please check the website here for more information and how to apply a Solis-id. Make sure, before the start of the course, if your Solis-id works for you.

Learning objectives

This course is a thorough preparation for the writing task of the PhD student. In this course, you learn how to:

  1. Identify the strengths and weaknesses in your writing process, optimize your writing strategies, and show personal growth as a writer.
  2. Compose a writing plan and create a good overall structure in your scientific texts with an eye for storyline and argumentation.
  3. Write in a good academic style using correct English, with special attention for clarity and conciseness.
  4. Compose paragraphs with good topic sentences and internal structure, and readable sentences of appropriate length and internal order.
  5. Apply the principles of cohesion in your writing to create a text that is perceived as high-standard.
  6. Give critical yet constructive feedback on the written work of peers and use this process to improve your own writing.

By working on these, you will gain confidence in writing and eventually become a more successful scientist.

Instructional method

You are trained through weekly e-learning modules on the ULearning platform consisting of theory, examples, short knowledge clips, and interactive exercises. Throughout the course, you will also engage in peer feedback, and receive feedback from your teacher. There will be 4 online meetings (each 1 hour long) in which you can get to know your teachers and peers and engage in discussion.

The course consists of 8 modules, spread over 8 weeks:

  1. The writing process and writing strategies
  2. Structuring a text by composing a writing plan
  3. Paragraphs: key sentences and internal structure
  4. Sentence readability and tools for cohesion
  5. Academic style and revision techniques
  6. Energizing verbs (active/passive, nominalizations) and secrets to concise writing
  7. Correct English (punctuation, spelling, and grammar)
  8. Solidifying and deepening knowledge and skills  

This course is specially designed for PhD students in the natural and life sciences, and the provided examples will be from natural and life sciences writing. It will, therefore, feel different than general language courses that you may have followed before, and more applicable to your current needs as a scientist.


You can either be working on a paper already or be ready to write anything (a minimum of 1000 words) about your PhD research, such as a literature overview or a short report of recent results. Usually, this requires that you have started your PhD at least three months ago.

This course teaches how to write an academic text in the natural or life sciences but does not delve deeply into genre-specific details, such as how to write a Results or Method section. This makes this Academic Writing 1 course suitable for any type of paper or proposal and for any field within the natural or life sciences.

Those interested in learning more about writing a scientific paper in the IMRaD structure (Introduction – Methods – Results – Discussion) can proceed with the course Academic Writing 2: Writing a Scientific Paper with Impact after completing this course (course 1 is a prerequisite to course 2; both courses are 1.5 EC time investment).


This course will be taught by Michelle Marks, one of the teachers from the Utrecht University’s Communication Skills Academy (a joint GSNS/GSLS initiative). These teachers have a strong linguistic background and substantial experience with academic writing in the natural and life sciences.

Group Size

10 to 12 participants

Number of credits

1.5 EC

Course schedule

From the start date, learning units will become available each week for you to complete, for a total duration of 8 weeks. In week 2, 3, 6, and 7, there will be online meetings (see data below).

Start Date (week 1)

Monday Nov 13, 2023

Meeting week 2

Tuesday Nov 21, 2023

Meeting week 3

Tuesday Nov 28, 2023

Meeting week 6

Tuesday Dec 19, 2023

Meeting week 7

Tuesday Jan 9, 2024

Final deadline

Monday Jan 22, 2024

Meetings are from 10:00-11:30h.

The average amount of time you will need to spend on the course is 5 hours/week. This does not include the time of doing the actual writing for your paper or writing task, but it includes the time needed to improve this writing or undertake specific assignments with it for this course. If you do not have a writing task that you are already doing, this course may take you a little extra time.

Apart from the meetings and a few minor deadlines that may be mid-week (usually when interaction with peers is required in the second half of the week), you are free to plan your course work anywhere in the week as long as you complete the units of the week before the next ones are released on Monday.

Starting November 13, 2023, every week one new session will be online for you to follow, up until January 22, 2024.
You are free to decide what time in the week you will complete the learning unit.

Course certificate

You will receive a course certificate after completing all 8 learning units and being an active participant on the online platform.

Cancellation and no-show policy

We are happy to offer courses for free to all GSLS PhD candidates. However: free of charge does not mean free of responsibility. Once you have signed up for a course, we expect you to attend. For every late cancellation or no-show we have had to disappoint others who would have liked to attend. This is our policy:

  • You may cancel free of charge up to 4 weeks before the start of the course. After this date you can only cancel if you have a GSLS PhD candidate to replace you in the course. Send the name and contact information of your replacement to, at least 2 working days before the start of the course;
  • We expect that you actively attend the full course, but at least 80%. It is mandatory to attend the first session. If you are absent the first session you cannot follow the remaining of the course. If the course is an E-learning, you have to complete all modules;
  • Not meeting the above requirements means you will be charged a no-show fee (€ 200) We will send the invoice after the course has ended. We are unable to make any exceptions, unless you have a valid reason (i.e., illness or death in the family 1st/2nd degree or partner). Your supervisor has to send an e-mail to indicating the reason.

Unfortunately we don’t offer this course for participants not part of the GSLS. Our courses tend to be fully booked by GSLS PhD candidates.

Start date and time
End date and time
Entrance fee
This course is free for GSLS PhD candidates.

Registration for this course opens 2 months before the course start. You can register via our course portal. After opening, the portal shows how many spots are still available.

More information
PhD Course Centre