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Course participants learn the art of writing scientific
 research for non-specialist readers.

Twenty four postgraduate and post-doctoral candidates from the College of Health Sciences received “a simple, easy-to-use” recipe for writing reader friendly, relevant and credible research papers that would be understood even by “non-specialists in English”.

The group attended an intensive week-long course offered by the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH) and presented by a professional trainer in scientific writing for publication, Mr Edward Thomas Hull of Holland.

Hull, who stressed the importance of writing to be read, said the recipe would work but it required candidates to “think out the box” during the step-by-step writing process. He said if an article was unreadable, the whole object was defeated.

The course focused on designing and organising a scientific article for publication, using language as a tool to clearly present the relevance, the credibility of the research and finishing a scientific article.

‘You want to conduct your research, write up the article, publish it and get back to your research in the shortest amount of time. The storyline of a scientific article is indeed a story and that is what makes it readable. The non-specialist should be able to read it and understand it. This emphasises the value of the work.’

Hull said it was important for the participants to wrap their content around credible science that filled a need. ‘If science is not relevant then it has no value.’

Participants completed four major assignments focusing on the point of conducting the research; a “skeleton” of the paper, clarifying the main messages of the introduction, methods, results, discussion and conclusion sections; abstract and title.

They also completed an article for publication, incorporating the corrections and suggestions made by the instructor and their peer reviewers who were fellow course participants.

Participants said it was an eye-opening experience to review papers written by their peers.

Ms Charlette Tiloke and Ms Savania Nagiah, masters candidates in the Discipline of Medical Biochemistry, were among the participants who said they learned a lot from the course and wanted to publish their work in world-class journals.

While Tiloke’s study investigated the antiproliferative effect of medicinal plant extracts and its chemically synthesised nanoparticles on human carcinoma cells, Nagiah was conducting a study on air pollution with pregnant women in the Durban South Basin of Merebank and Wentworth.