Writing Academic Papers


Communication Skills

Target group

Members of the Doctoral School of Natural Sciences, the Doctoral School of Life Sciences and Medicine, and the Doctoral School of (Bio)Science Engineering. This course is intended for graduate students who are ready to write a (first) paper for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The course will be most efficient when field, laboratory, or modeling work have already been conducted, and when statistical or phylogenetic analyses have been finalized. There are no prerequirements, but data collection must be finished, statistical analyses must be performed or almost so, and a take-home message should be clear by the first class.


How do you write a paper that gets read and cited by other researchers? In this course, students who are ready to write their first paper learn to think about scientific writing as storytelling. Every week, teacher and students will engage in group analysis, dissection, and editing of written work, both of previously published papers and own manuscript sections. By the end of the semester, every student should have a manuscript that is ready for submission, or almost so.

Course objectives

1. Knowledge on theory about writing sentences, paragraphs, papers

2. Ability to provide constructive criticism to colleagues (peer review)

3. Ability to engage the reader

4. Ability to apply SUCCES and OCAR concepts in writing manuscripts

5. Write a complete manuscript, section by section, throughout the semester

Course content

Papers, papers, papers! Scientists are judged based on the quality of their written work. A key skill for a good scientist is to write papers that get read and cited by other researchers. How do you learn this skill? It takes work, and a lot of practice to master writing skills, but you do not have to reinvent the wheel. By analyzing published work, you will learn to distinguish good writing from bad. You will start thinking about scientific writing as storytelling. You will prepare, section by section, your own manuscript ready for submission. The instructor(s) and your peers will review your work and provide feedback—in person and written. In addition to writing papers, we may also discuss the peer review process and talk about how to write an objective, effective, and constructive manuscript review. By the end of this workshop, preferably, you should have a well-structured and polished manuscript that is close to being ready for submission.


Danny Haelewaters

MSc in biology from Ghent University (graduated in 2011), PhD in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University (graduated in 2018), postdoctoral researcher at the University of South Bohemia (2018–2019), Purdue University (2018–2020), Ghent University (2020–2022), University of Colorado Boulder (2022–2023), and currently Visiting Professor and Senior Postdoctoral Fellow at Ghent University. 

Haelewaters is a mycologist, field biologist, and systematist, with an interest in conservation and parasitic interactions. Haelewaters loves writing and writing goes easily for him. He has published 118 peer-reviewed papers (49 as first author, 21 as senior author) that have been cited 5334 times (Google Scholar, 18 January 2024). The idea for this course has come gradually, from his love for teaching and mentoring as well as from growing frustration about the poor quality of manuscripts by junior (but also senior) researchers.

Michiel D. de Groot

MSc in biology from Leiden University (graduated in 2021), FWO-funded PhD student at Ghent University. De Groot is an evolutionary biologist and mycologist and has written interdisciplinary popular science and research articles since high school through his higher education studies. He wrote for the faculty magazine during his bachelor studies, covering the latest research advances in the university. During his master's program, he co-founded the interdisciplinary Leiden Science Magazine, where he covered science and scientists of many different fields. He has published eight peer-reviewed papers and several others are in preparation.

Time schedule & Venue

Fall 2024, dates to be announced

Mondays 13:00-14:30

Wednesdays 13:00-16:00

Course website



Enrolment is by email. Email the lecturer with a brief description of your research and an assessment of the state of the project you intend to publish on. Have you finished collecting data? Have statistical analyses been performed already? Has a main hypothesis been proven/validated? Are more supporting data needed? And what will the take-home message of the paper be? The lecturer will be available for a meeting (online or in person) to discuss whether this course will be good for you. Because this is a workshop-style course, attendance and participation are mandatory. 

Registration fee

Free of charge for the members of the Doctoral Schools. The no show policy applies.



Number of participants

Maximum 12

Evaluation criteria (doctoral training programme)

Evaluation will be made based on weekly assignments (20%), the final manuscript draft (40%), manuscript peer group reviews in class (15%), and class attendance and participation (25%).

Teaching material that will be available to the participants:

Lecture slides, PDFs of papers that are assigned for pre-class reading, PDF of selected chapters from “Writing science: How to write papers that get cited and proposals that get funded” (Schimel 2011) [also two copies in the lab for those who prefer reading physical books].