As a physician and postdoctoral researcher at an HIV research lab, Dr. Sara Gianella understands the importance of getting her point across.
“When you do research,” she says, “a big part of your work is to present your data and convince the readers and reviewers that it is correct. How you present your data can make a big difference in whether your work is accepted.”
But Gianella — a native of Switzerland and fluent in several languages, including German and Italian — was concerned. Because of the challenges of writing in a non-native language and of scientific writing in particular, she worried that her writing wasn’t meeting her expectations or the demands of her reviewers.
“You can do the best research and have the most beautiful data, but when people read your paper, they have to get your message — fast,” Gianella explains.
She decided to take a course to learn how to write a scientific manuscript effectively. After reviewing the options, she decided on Hurley Write’s 10-week scientific writing course, “Writing the Scientific Manuscript,” and she couldn’t be happier.
“Planning is everything”
Between her work as a researcher and the demands of being a mother, Gianella had little time to spare. When she found Hurley Write, she realized that it was the perfect fit.
“The online factor was very important,” says Gianella. “For me, anything else would be absolutely undoable. I cannot take away time from my kids, after work, to go to a class at some other location.”
With Hurley Write, she was able to take the course from home, online, after her children were in bed.
She also appreciated the responsiveness of the instructor.
“For me, planning is everything. I’ve taken online courses before, and having to wait days for an answer threw off all my planning. With Hurley Write, if I wrote an email, I didn’t have to wait three days for an answer from the instructor!”
Everything readers need — fast
After completing the course, Gianella approaches her writing differently.
“People are busy,” she says, “so you can’t expect them to read from beginning to end. This is what I really learned from the course: how to highlight your main messages, where to put them, and how to help people read the paper fast but still get everything they need.”
She points to several key skills that have improved her writing:
- How to structure a paper and its individual paragraphs
- How and when to use active versus passive voice
- How to use figures and tables more effectively
“I’m much more conscious and caring about whether I write in active or passive voice,” Gianella observes. “Before, I never really thought about it or about what I should put in a paragraph or how to start it ... Now I know to put the most important sentence at the beginning, how to make sentences shorter or longer depending on how important they are, and so on. I care much more about every detail. I think I improved the quality of my writing a lot after this course.”
Learning how to improve her writing has also helped Gianella work more efficiently.
“When you write your paper in a structured way,” she points out, “it helps you to put together your ideas and, I’m sure, to improve your message.”
Writing with confidence
Gianella now writes cover letters, abstracts, and research papers with confidence.
In fact, the reviewers of the last two papers that she wrote commented on how well the papers were written.
“Of course, they won’t accept your paper only because it’s well written,” Gianella laughs, “but it certainly helps!”