Scientific writing workshop using online instructional technology

Ricardo Pietrobon, Assistant Professor, Surgery, School of Medicine

Project description
The purpose of this project was to investigate the efficacy of a software tool, Manuscript Architect (MA), in improving the scientific writing ability of students in Health Sciences related fields. MA, previously created by the project PI and his staff, allows focused and collaborative writing, with embedded examples and feedback (see paper describing MA).

During the study, 48 students from Medicine, Physical Therapy and Nursing participated, 24 using the tool and 24 using traditional writing methods. The students prepared a section of a scientific paper and their results were judged by external/blind reviewers. In addition the students themselves were interviewed and their interviews were transcribed and analyzed.

The major results were that students faced cognitive burden in learning to write well using standard scientific writing style, but the MA group found the support and collaboration provided by the tool helpful. The control group found it hard to distinguish content and structure issues in their papers, while the test group was better able to do this. Analysis of the papers showed using MA provided a statistically significant improvement in organization of the text and flow of argument than the control group, although there was not a difference in writing quality at the sentence level between the two groups (see published results).

Those wishing to receive access to Manuscript Architect for their own courses or research should contact Ricardo Pietrobon.

Project start date: 6/30/2005
Funding awarded: $40,000