Academic writing is an essential skill during the PhD studies. Right at the beginning of your PhD, it starts by writing the obligatory PhD proposal. In the following years, you will need to write your papers and finally your PhD thesis.
This page is designed to give you information, tools, and tips & tricks to make your writing successful. We present the offers and courses from PPHS, and give you tips and resources that are offered at the University of Basel or elsewhere. Our goal is to make your writing life easier and a regular fun activity!
We encourage students to start writing as early as possible. By regularly documenting your research activities, results and discussion outcomes, you will enjoy writing your manuscript for publication.
In the first 6 months of your PhD, you are required to write your PhD proposal. PPHS offers a proposal writing course twice a year which we highly recommend.
In the second year, you will probably work on your first publication. PPHS offers an academic writing course once per year. The course focuses not only on the technical part of writing, but also teaches you how to choose a target journal, and to successfully publish in an international journal. If you have completed quantitative data analysis and are preparing a manuscript, you can join our ‘Writing a research paper in 12 weeks or less’ course.
Usually, figures and graphs are very central in a paper, therefore, we offer a visual communication course in the spring semester organized by GRACE.
In the last year of your PhD, you will probably have to write more publications and in the end also your thesis. In this stage, we recommend staying focused by writing regularly and use peer feedback by joining PPHS ‘Meet to Write’ or G3S ‘Writing with Julia’.
Activity: Meet to Write
Contact us if you are interested to know alternative external writing groups.
PPHS offers ‘Meet to Write’
Meet to Write is a tailor-made framework of weekly 3h sessions to support PhD researchers in developing their writing style and habits that will guide them towards completion of manuscripts (publications, PhD proposal or thesis, etc.)
During Meet to Write, participants write on their own writing projects. Participants share their writing goals and receive tips on the writing process from the organizer, Anja Matthiä. Occasionally, experts in academic writing and publishing present inputs on writing topics. In addition, a feedback process with peers or a writing expert is offered.
Participants can drop in and out each week, thereby selecting the specific topics and activities most suited to their needs and schedules.
Offers by the University of Basel or associates
- Various courses, offered in the Transferable Skills program by GRACE
- Guided Writing, offered by the University Language Center
- Literature search and references courses, offered by the University Library
- Journal editing / Writing a Journal Article… and Getting it Published, offered by the SSPH+ Graduate Campus
How to write a paper?
- Read this Springer article by Busse & August (2020). How to Write and Publish a Research Paper for a Peer-Reviewed Journal
- Read this Frontiers article Glover et al (2016). A Pragmatic Approach to Getting Published: 35 Tips for Early Career Researchers
- Read this article by the Writing Scientist: How to write a whole research paper in a week
Reporting guidelines for health sciences research
The Equator Network offers guidelines and toolkits for scientific writing and publishing. The reporting guidelines are specified for different study types (e.g. randomized trials or qualitative research). The toolkits cover topics such as ‘writing research’ or ‘peer-reviewing research’.
8 tips for revising your text – from PPHS ‘Meet to Write’
- Check overall text cohesion: do the results mirror the methods? Does the discussion answer the questions/hypotheses/objectives posed in the introduction?
- Revise on different levels, first the macrostructure (the various sections, and then the structure within each section), then the microstructure (paragraph, sentence, and word level).
- Choose English as proofing language in your writing software and switch on the Editor function in the Review panel – it might suggest helpful revisions.
- Search the text for ‘ion of’ to replace nominalizations that make a text harder to read. Use verbs instead.
- Search for long sentences, i.e. more than 20-25 words, and revise those by breaking them up.
- Use a read-out-loud function of your writing software or alike to check how readable and understandable your text is, so you can spot text locations to revise.
- Get peer feedback. Give your texts to a peer to read and indicate anything that is not easy to understand the first time you read it.
- Use active voice rather than passive voice.
Books recommended to PPHS
- The scientist guide to writing by Stephen B. Heard: How to write more easily and effectively throughout your scientific career.
- How to Fix your academic writing trouble: a practical guide by Inger Mewburn, Shaun Lehmann and Katherine Firth
- Winning the Publications Game: The Smart Way to Write Your Paper and Get It Published by Tim Albert
- Style – Towards Clarity and Grace by J.M. Williams
Editing and proofreading resources
- Use Phrasebank to find ideas for phrases
- Use Grammarly to mistake-free writing with Grammarly’s AI-powered writing assistant
- Use Trinka, the grammar and language correction AI tool for academic and technical writing
- Do the Writers Diet test by Helen Sword to find out if your writing is “flabby or fit”