Fundamental Writing Skills for Researchers

Part 1 Introduction and Snapshot of Writing (6:31)

Everyone is capable of being a good writer, even without any innate skill. A snapshot of research writing is given, from presenting a research question in context of current knowledge to interpreting your findings. In other words, moving from general to specific, then specific to general. It's important to be a careful and intentional writer. It's not about writing, it's about readability. Focusing on your readers and their needs helps make your message clear.

Part 2 Making Meaning Clear (6:31)

"Going-to-the-Caribbean writing" is boring, dense, and generally not reader-friendly because it lacks transitions, logic, and concern for reader understanding. An example of "Caribbean writing," along with a more reader-friendly revision, is provided. Good writing clearly communicates meaning to readers by always keeping their needs in mind.

Part 3 Writing Myths (4:20)

The impulse to impress readers with complex sentences and pretentious words is regrettably common in research writing. Writing to impress seeks validation for the writer rather than comprehension for the reader. Revision is always needed because ideas don’t flow logically from the writer's mind to the page.

Part 4 How Readers Read and Respond (7:19)

There are several levels of a reader's response to a piece of writing. The writer is responsible for the reader’s experience in everything from visual appeal and organization to readability and tone. The purpose of research writing is to convey your data and interpretations of that data while convincing your reader that your perspective is valid. Critique your writing by continually keeping your reader in mind.

Part 5 Helping Your Audience Interpret Your Meaning (11:58)

Your role as writer is to make sense—to make your meaning clear to the reader. Use punctuation, grammar, and other language conventions as road signs to help your reader interpret your writing. Basic vocabulary and simple sentence construction is sufficient, even for winning the Nobel Prize in Literature. But your audience may vary, and that takes very careful planning on your part.

Part 6 Giving Structure to Your Writing (6:24)

Paragraphs, topic sentences, and transitions provide the structure of your writing. Mastering these building blocks is the key to being able to clearly communicate your thinking to your reader. The topic sentence is the king or queen of the sentence and each line of the paragraph should support or elaborate upon that main thought. Transitions are used to help the reader move from one thought to the next, whether within a sentence, from sentence to sentence, or from paragraph to paragraph.

Part 7 Writing as a Logical Process (10:07)

Writing is a logical process, and a sentence is like a mathematical formula. Using levels of generality allows you to move from general to specific levels of detail. Sometimes you'll need to use more words to make your meaning clear to the reader. A piece of writing is not clear simply because it is brief.

Download the Logical Puzzles Handout

Part 8 Making Meaning Clear (9:13)

Logic doesn't flow naturally from mind to paper. You are responsible for writing a clear topic sentence and supporting it in a logical way. Transitions point out to the reader the logical connections between ideas, and order is important. Outlining will help you write effectively and more efficiently.

Part 9 Outlining (8:12)

Planning your writing will save you a great deal of time. Again, levels of generality come into play here, as does the structure of a paragraph. But don't focus on the skeleton of an outline, emphasize the content as you coordinate and subordinate your ideas. When you create an outline, step back and analyze it critically. You need to impose logic on your writing, then crystallize your logic by making specific connections.

Part 10 Headings, Figures, Rhythm, and Length (4:15)

Headings and subheadings used consistently help your reader see the structure of your writing. Tables, figures, and charts are powerful aids to making your meaning clear. But don't just present them to your reader; interpret their significance. Finally, you’ll also improve readability by varying the length and construction of your sentences.