CSE 290 - Winter 2022
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 (until further notice)
  • Grading (S/U): 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration.
  • Units: 2


[Gopen] G. Gopen and J. Swan (1990). The Science of Scientific Writing. American Scientist 78:550-558.
[Williams] J. Williams and G. Colomb (2016). Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace. Pearson. New York, NY.
[Greene] A. E. Greene (2013). Writing Science in Plain English. University of Chicago Press. Chicago, IL.


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

1/5Course goals and expectations.
Writing for the reader.
1/12ActionsCh 03Weijian
1/19CharactersCh 04Kshitiz
1/26Cohesion and coherenceCh 05Jennifer
2/2No class
2/9EmphasisCh 06Hao-Wen
2/16MotivationCh 07Like
2/23Global coherenceCh 08Rohan
3/2ConcisionCh 09Jonghun
3/9ShapeCh 10Md
3/16EleganceCh 11TBA