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Writing a Research Paper: 2nd Edition

For researchers in the natural sciences looking to write effective research papers

With insights from 12 experts in scientific writing, including Nature Portfolio Editors

14.5 hours of learning

10-50-minute lessons

5-module course with certificate

About this course

Writing research papers allows you to contribute to the scientific record, and is critical for advancing your career. To ensure that the findings you have invested so much effort in have an impact on your scientific community, it is pivotal that the paper you write is effective. In other words, it needs to be informative, concise, well structured and engaging. An effective research paper makes it easier to convey to editors and reviewers the significance of presented outcomes. It also provides researchers with the information they need, boosting dissemination of your work.

This course will introduce you to powerful narrative tools and principles of scientific writing. It will also teach you how to apply them to your next manuscript. Don’t miss out and start learning today!

This is the second edition of our highly popular ‘Writing a Research Paper’ course. We recommend you take this updated version even if you have already started the first edition. However, the previous version of the course is still available, if you wish to continue it to obtain your certificate. If you have already completed the first edition of the course you will still be able to access your certificate on the progress page under “My dashboard”. 


The benefits of this new 2nd edition

  • Restructured content for a better learning experience
  • Enriched content with extensive real-world examples
  • Bite-size lessons on each topic to fit busy schedules
  • Strategies to apply narrative tools when writing research papers
  • Detailed examples for explaining concepts, taken from real papers where possible
  • Step-by-step strategies and how to apply them to your research paper
  • Portfolio activities that empower you to transfer knowledge into practice.

What you'll learn

  • Understand what makes an effective research paper
  • Gain insights on the preferred structure of a Nature published paper
  • Leverage narrative tools and their application to scientific writing
  • Master the principles of scientific writing style
  • Write a research paper section by section
  • Develop effective titles and abstracts
  • Finalise your research paper for submission.

The course

Free Sample
Understanding the elements of an effective research paper

9 lessons 2h

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Free Sample
Applying narrative tools to your research paper

7 lessons 3h

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Free Sample
Using the principles of scientific writing style for your research paper

22 lessons 2h

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Free Sample
Writing your research paper section by section

32 lessons 5h 30m

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Free Sample
Finalising your research paper for submission

6 lessons 2h

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Writing a Research Paper: 2nd Edition: Free Sample

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8 lessons 2h

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Select the dropdown to explore an overview of the content for each module

Module 1: Understanding the elements of an effective research paper

  • Welcome to the course
  • About this course
  • The structure of a research paper
  • What makes an effective research paper
  • Strategies to write an effective research paper
  • Overview of the strategies for writing an effective research paper
  • Narrative tools and research papers – how they work together
  • Principles of scientific writing style
  • Key points about the strategies for writing an effective research paper
  • Module summary

Module 2: Applying narrative tools to your research paper

  • Introduction
  • The key message
  • The audience
  • The story arc
  • Steps to develop your story arc
  • The evidence
  • Module summary

Module 3: Using the principles of scientific writing style for your research paper

  • Introduction

Informative writing

  • Introduction to informative writing
  • Pitfalls that can undermine the informativeness of your research paper
  • Master the basics of informative writing
  • Take informative writing to the next level
  • Apply the key points of informative writing to your research paper

Concise writing

  • Introduction to concise writing
  • Pitfalls that can undermine the conciseness of your research paper
  • Master the basics of concise writing
  • Take concise writing to the next level
  • Apply the key points of concise writing to your research paper

Well-structured writing

  • Introduction to well-structured writing 
  • Pitfalls that can undermine the structure of your research paper
  • Master the basics of well-structured writing
  • Take well-structured writing to the next level
  • Key takeaways for ensuring well-structured writing

Engaging writing

  • Introduction to engaging writing
  • Pitfalls that can undermine the engaging of your research paper
  • Master the basics of engaging writing
  • Take engaging writing to the next level
  • Key takeaways for writing engagingly
  • Module summary

Module 4: Writing your paper section by section

  • Introduction
  • Tools to help you plan and write the sections of your paper

The methods section

  • The purpose of the methods section
  • What to include in the methods section
  • How to structure the methods section
  • The specific writing style of the methods section
  • Common pitfalls in the methods section
  • Key points about writing the methods section

The results section

  • The purpose of the results section
  • What to include in the results section
  • How to structure the results section
  • The specific writing style of the results section
  • Common pitfalls in the results section
  • Key points about writing the results section

The discussion section

  • The purpose of the discussion section
  • What to include in the discussion section
  • How to structure the discussion section
  • The specific writing style of the discussion section
  • Common pitfalls in the discussion section
  • Key points about writing the discussion section

The conclusion section

  • The purpose of the conclusion section
  • How to structure the conclusion section
  • The specific writing style of the conclusion section
  • Common pitfalls in the conclusion section
  • Key points about writing the conclusion section

The introduction section

  • The purpose of the introduction section
  • What to include in the introduction section
  • How to structure the introduction section
  • The specific writing style of the introduction section
  • Common pitfalls in the introduction section
  • Key points about writing the introduction section
  • Module summary

Module 5: Finalising your research paper for submission

  • Introduction
  • Assemble an appealing title
  • Compose an effective abstract
  • Revise your paper before submission
  • Module summary
  • Course summary

Developed with experts in scientific writing

The course was developed and refined by an international panel of academics, editors and experts in writing research papers.

Meet the expert panel that have helped shape and refine the content of the course:

Davide Esposito

Davide became an editor of Nature Catalysis in 2017, handling a variety of topics across the field of heterogeneous catalysis. Before joining Nature Research he has worked as principal investigator at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, leading a group specialized in the development of new catalytic methods for biomass upgrade and sustainable chemistry. Davide was awarded the title of Doctor of Science from the ETH Zürich in 2012, where he received training in organic and carbohydrate chemistry. He became Chief Editor of Nature Catalysis in 2020.

Peter Gorsuch

Peter is setting up an online tool that guides authors in writing a research paper. The author is put in the driving seat, but helped along the way with extensive inbuilt training material and judicious use of artificial intelligence. Before this, for 12 years, Peter ran Scientific Editing at Nature Research Editing Service, a pre-submission editing service that allows researchers to benefit from Nature-standard editing and advice on scientific manuscripts. This built on his experience as an Associate Editor in the Physical Sciences team at Nature, where he specialised in earth sciences topics, from carbon cycling to landscape morphology.

Joshua Schimel

Joshua is a world-renowned researcher in the field of soil science whose work focuses on the role of soil microbes in controlling ecosystem scale processes. He received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley and subsequently became an Assistant Professor at University of Alaska Fairbanks before joining the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1995, where he remains to this day. Being a highly prolific researcher, Joshua has authored hundreds of articles, receiving tens of thousands of citations. He has become increasingly interested in how to communicate science and tell the story to explain his results. After teaching a series of courses on scientific writing, and publishing columns on the topic, Joshua published the book Writing Science (2011) which provides a comprehensive guide on all types of scientific writing. His new book, Your Future on the Faculty, was released in August 2023.

Sadaf Shadan

Sadaf completed her BSc in Medical Biochemistry, King's College London, and her PhD in cell biology at University of Cambridge. She later carried out postdoctoral work on functional analysis of lipid-transfer proteins at University College London. Sadaf has been an editor with Nature for 17 years and has worked for the journal in different roles – from editing commissioned content to make them concise and accessible to the broad readership of the journal, to selecting research manuscripts for further consideration at Nature. As a Senior Editor for Biology, her areas of responsibility are cell biology and plant biology. She also manages a team of editors, who handle research manuscript in diverse areas including developmental biology, stem cells, ecology, evolution, sustainability, paleobiology and zoology.

Advice from experienced science editors and researchers

The course contains additional insights from other experts in scientific writing:

Magdalena Skipper

Editor-in-Chief, Nature and Chief Editorial Advisor, Nature Portfolio

Malena Rice

Assistant Professor, Department of Astronomy, Yale University and named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list in science

Alexia-Ileana Zaromytidou

Chief Editor, Nature Cancer

Xiaodong Zou

Professor, Department of Materials and Environmental Chemistry, Stockholm University

Anna Ploszajski

Freelance materials scientist and storyteller

Tamara Goldin

Chief Editor, Nature Geoscience

Zoë Doubleday

Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow, University of South Australia

Lu Shi

Senior Editor, Nature Nanotechnology

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Why should you take this course?

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