CSE 290 - Spring 2021
Scientific Writing

Do you ever struggle to put your ideas into writing? Does your advisor feel the need to edit your text? Have anonymous reviewers ever misunderstood your main arguments? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are likely to benefit from this course.

This course develops writing skills for students in all areas of computer science. The course is aimed specifically at Ph.D. students who have passed or completed a first draft of their research exam.

Classes meet once per week; attendance is mandatory. Classes will start with a presentation on some aspect of writing style. However, the main portion of each class (beginning in the second week) will be devoted to workshop critiques of student manuscripts. Each section of the class will be limited to 9-11 students.

Students must provide a writing sample (e.g., a draft of the research exam, or equivalent) to enroll in the class. Students will receive group feedback on their writing, as well as individual feedback from the instructor.

Grading (S/U) is based on class participation; there will be no writing assignments during the quarter itself. Though good writing requires practice, this course is based on another time-tested method: the diligent and mindful critique of others' work can help us see what is lacking in our own.


  • Professor: Lawrence Saul
  • Meetings: Wed 1-2:20 pm via Zoom
  • Grading (S/U): 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration.
  • Units: 2


[SciWri] G. Gopen and J. Swan (1990). The Science of Scientific Writing. American Scientist 78:550-558.
[Style] J. Williams and G. Colomb (2010). Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace. Pearson. New York, NY.


All readings after the first week refer to chapters in Style.

3/31Course goals and expectations.
Writing for the reader.
4/7ActionsCh 03Utkrisht
4/14CharactersCh 04Mohammed
4/21Cohesion and coherenceCh 05Supun
4/28EmphasisCh 06Audrey
5/5MotivationCh 07Shuyang
5/12Global coherenceCh 08Jacob
5/19ConcisionCh 09Haocheng
5/26ShapeCh 10Yibo
6/2EleganceCh 11Hannah