CSE 290 - Winter 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 2-3:20 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.

1/6Course goals and expectations.
Writing for the reader.
1/13ActionsCh 03Gautam
1/20CharactersCh 04Shraddha
1/27Cohesion and coherenceCh 05Rishikanth
2/3EmphasisCh 06Rajdeep
2/10MotivationCh 07Cheng
2/17Global coherenceCh 08Alex
2/24ConcisionCh 09Bodhi
3/3ShapeCh 10Bingyu
3/10EleganceCh 11Tiancheng
3/17What comes nextnoneAn