The act of writing is itself an exercise of thought

Jacques Barzun
Jacques Barzun Photo: GETTY & The Telegraph

The act of writing is itself an exercise of thought
Many writers have said that they do not fully grasp their own meaning until they have carved it like a statue, using words as material.  The reason is plain. One starts writing, not with a well-shaped thought, trimmed and polished, but with an intent—perhaps with several, overlapping and conflicting. You see a scene in your mind’s eye or know the tendency of a complex argument, but do not know which part of the scene or argument is to come first—what, anyhow, is a part of something you sense as an undivided whole? Thinking, and nothing but thinking, will answer these questionsnor will the answer be satisfactory until words are down on paper that represent the first finished piece of description or argument. (p.118-9). 
Jacques Barzun. Simple & Direct

Writing in the Sciences free @stanford MOOC starts Sept 1

Link here.

This course teaches scientists to become more effective writers, using practical examples and exercises. Topics include: principles of good writing, tricks for writing faster and with less anxiety, the format of a scientific manuscript, and issues in publication and peer review. Students from non-science disciplines can benefit from the training provided in the first four weeks (on general principles of effective writing).

In the first four weeks, we will review principles of effective writing, examples of good and bad writing, and tips for making the writing process easier. In the second four weeks, we will examine issues specific to scientific writing, including: authorship, peer review, the format of an original manuscript, and communicating science for lay audiences. Students will watch video lectures, complete quizzes and editing exercises, write two short papers, and edit each others’ work.


Week 1 – Introduction; principles of effective writing (cutting unnecessary clutter)
Week 2 – Principles of effective writing (verbs)
Week 3 – Crafting better sentences and paragraphs
Week 4 – Organization; and streamlining the writing process
Week 5 – The format of an original manuscript
Week 6 – Reviews, commentaries, and opinion pieces; and the publication process
Week 7 – Issues in scientific writing (plagiarism, authorship, ghostwriting, reproducible research)
Week 8 – How to do a peer review; and how to communicate with the lay public

New session starts September 1

Writing tools for researchers

This is a selection of resources for those wishing to improve their scientific and academic writing in English. It showcases a selection of max 30 online resources inluding online course, face to face courses, academic word lists, online data bases, concordancers, corpora as well as some diy tools.

Online courses

British Council Writing for a purpose

Face to face courses

V Escribir ciencia en inglés (Universidad de Murcia)

Word lists

AWL and definitions

Exploring contexts of AWL (dictionary-based) 

Test the AWL in your own papers or highlight them.

Online DBs

The Manchester Phrase Bank

Exploration tools:


Word neighbors

Babla (just for fun)

String net

Easy everyday colocations

Collocation forbetterenglish


Video talks

Webcorp (The web is your corpus)

Springer exemplar

Taporware tools (Alberta)


Antconc (Win, MacOS, lINUX)

Textstat (Windows & MacOS)

Deconstructing discourse

Clean your text 

Generate word lists (Input url)

Ngram Analyzer

Ngram Extractor

Web as a corpus (n-gram browser)

Online text comparator

Text-lex compare

Google books Ngram Viewer

Microsoft n-gram tool (just for fun and interesting lists of most frequent 100k words based on bing data mining)

Online corpora

Academic words in American English (Mark Davies COCA)

CRA (Corpus of Research Articles)




CQPweb portal

British Academic Written English Corpus (BAWE) Sketch engine gateway

BAWE corpus (Coventry site)

Do-it-yourself tools & Advanced users


Beautifulsoup parser (Python)

Avoid deduplication: Onion


Using COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English)

For more information on research group and interests, visit our website: Languages for specific purposes, language corpora, and English linguistics applied to knowledge engineering.