Duke University Scientific Writing Resource

About the Online Scientific Writing Resource

The Scientific Writing web resource is a free, online course in scientific writing. It was created by Nathan Sheffield for the Duke University Graduate School and funded by a Duke University Graduate School Teaching mini-grant, from 2010-2011. It is primarily intended to provide online course material (principles, examples, and worksheets) for instructors and TAs of graduate-level science classes. The materials include lessons, real examples, worksheets, and lecture slides. These materials will be helpful to anyone interesting in improving her technical writing skills.

Relevance to other fields

This material focuses on scientific writing, but it is also applicable to any sort of technical writing, including medical writing, business writing, or legal writing.

Examples and copyrights

I have taken verbatim samples from scientific publications that may be copyrighted. I believe this constitutes "fair use" of these resources, as established by the US Congress and interpreted by the court system. My justification is based on a consideration of the 4 criteria for fair use:

  1. purpose: The examples are produced here for non-profit, educational purposes only.
  2. nature of the copyrighted work: All examples are already published. The reproduction is completely out of context.
  3. amount of the copying: Use is minimal; only a sentence or two at a time.
  4. effect of the copying on the original work's value: This use should have no affect on the market for the original.
I'm also happy to take down any example that a copyright holder requests. Please see the Roadmap For Copyright Compliance for more information.

Permission to reproduce and distribute

This resource is intended for educational purposes. For any of content created by me, I give you permission to reproduce and distribute freely for educational purposes, including classrooms and workshops. You may reproduce small parts of this resource on a website, but please do not copy large sections of the content for another website, either public or private. Instead, please link back to this site. Material created by me is copyrighted where applicable by Nathan Sheffield. For the examples, I do not hold the copyright, so I have no authority to provide any permission beyond fair use. Nevertheless, as long as you are adhering to fair use (see above), I believe you should be able to use the examples.


Many thanks to those who have reviewed the site and provided feedback, particularly Debbie Winter and Cecelia Shertz.

I developed the workshop (presentation PDF) with Elizabeth Paley from the Duke University Writing Studio.

Vicki Russell, Director of the Duke University Writing Studio, was my advisor and mentor during the process.

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