Academic Writing 1 for GSNS PhD Students

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.

Learning objectives

This course is a thorough preparation for the writing task of the PhD student. We pay special attention to the problem of starting up the writing process: how to overcome writer’s block and other challenges. You will learn how to compose a coherent line of thought, and how to design, write, analyze, and edit a scientific paper with an eye for cohesion, clarity, and conciseness. By working on these issues, you will gain confidence in writing and eventually become a more successful scientist.


You should either be working on a paper, or 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, report, 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 following 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 EC). Academic Writing 2 will start in the second half of 2023.

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 will be trained by Kim van Ommering. She holds a PhD in applied physics for research on magnetic biosensors, and has worked as a teacher since 2011. She is the coordinator of the Utrecht University’s Communication Skills Academy where she develops and teaches courses in academic writing for the GSNS and GSLS (both master and PhD level).

Group Size

6 to 12 participants

Number of credits

1 EC

Course schedule

You can register for one of two groups in the spring of 2023, see data below. 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).

Meetings are from 11:00-12:00h.


Group 1

Group 2


Start Date

Mar 27

May 1


Meeting week 2

Tuesday Apr 4

Monday May 8


Meeting week 3

Tuesday Apr 11

Monday May 15


Meeting week 6

Tuesday May 2

Monday Jun 5


Meeting week 7

Tuesday May 9

Monday Jun 12


Final deadline

May 21

Jun 25


The average amount of time you will need to spend on the course is 3,5 hours/week. Note that this does not include the time of doing the actual writing of your paper or writing task, but it includes the time needed to improve this writing or undertake specific assignments with it. 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.

Course registration 

Registration is open until February 15th 2023

Please register here for Group 1 (Note: group 1 is currently full)
Please register here for Group 2 

Each group is limited to 12 participants on a first come first serve basis. If a group is full, we work with waiting lists.  

Course certificate

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