Writing for the Life Sciences. By Dr Dinah Parums

In some ways, writing in the life science disciplines is no different from writing in other fields. The requirements are for a clear argument or thesis, the use of evidence and original sources, content organisation, and attention to grammar, formatting, and word choice. Good writing is a reflection of a clear understanding of the subject.

Dr Dinah Parums. Writing for Life Sciences


However, particularly in life sciences, in the process of writing it is often helpful to formulate and solidify ideas or arguments. Like all forms of writing, written material is reworked, reorganised, edited, and rewritten before it can begin to make sense. Writing for the life sciences usually follows certain formats, conventions and styles that are recognised for each type of work. The variety of these written forms include:

  • Research proposals or grant proposals.
  • Research reports or clinical study reports for meetings or journal publications.
  • ‘Ghost writing’ or editing manuscripts or chapters for publication.
  • Scientific, technical or health reviews, often as a chapter or monograph.
  • ‘Marketing reports’ that may give promotional or explanatory information on a new treatment, clinical study, scientific finding or methodology.
  • Undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, CME and CPD materials.

There are five basic elements of writing for life sciences:

1)    The Thesis: There must be a main argument. The argument must be clearly stated, and the thesis presented in an interesting way and well argued.

2)    The Structure: The paper should be clearly organised so that it is easy to understand the main point/s of the paper, each section, and each paragraph. The order of the overall argument should make sense and be easy to follow. If there are multiple ideas, there must be appropriate transitions that link them.

3)    Evidence and Sources: Supporting evidence must be given for each point that is made. The writing should demonstrate that the author has knowledge of the field and the subject matter. All important pieces of evidence should be included, properly attributed and the correct reference information should be properly cited.

4)    Analysis: There should be an analysis of the evidence with appropriate conclusions.

5)    The Writing Style: The style should be appropriate for the audience and the assignment. The paper should be concise, focused and to the point. The sentences should be clear, grammatically correct and free of spelling errors.

I have chosen three of the resources I use most often when writing for the life sciences. They are:

1)    Medline (U.S. National Library of Medicine). Follow links to PubMed from the homepage of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) home page at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

2)     Strunk, W. Jr., & White, E.B. (2000). The Elements of Style. (4th ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

3)    Trus, L. (2003). Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. New York: Gotham Books.

About Dr Dinah Parums

Dr Dinah Parums is a medical and scientific writer, editor and journalist. She was Senior Lecturer at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith Hospital and Imperial College School of Medicine, London from 1993. She was an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge where she received an entrance scholarship to King’s College, Cambridge from grammar school. Dinah Parums did her clinical medical training at Oxford University Medical School, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford where she won the George Pickering Prize and the Radcliffe Prize in her final year (1983). During her PhD in Experimental Pathology at the University of Cambridge, she was a Junior Research Fellow of the British Heart Foundation (1984 to 1987), a Research Fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge (1985 to 1987) and a Research Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford (1989 to 1993). She was Clinical Lecturer and Clinical Tutor at the Oxford University Medical School (1988 to 1993). She was awarded Membership of the Royal College of Pathologists in 1991 and the Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists in 1999 and the Fellowship of the American College of Chest Physicians in 1999. She was an External Examiner for the Royal College of Pathologists from 1994 to 2002. Her research has included the topics of inflammation in atherosclerosis [1], chronic periaortitis [2], oxidized LDL and atherosclerosis [3], vasculitis [4], the endothelium [5], and targeted therapy in lung cancer [6]. She has been an investigator in key clinical trials in targeted therapy in non-small cell lung cancer. She has written more than 40 peer-reviewed papers in major scientific medical journals. She has supervised PhD students at the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge and University of Newcastle. She is the sole editor of the textbook: Essential Clinical Pathology. Wiley-Blackwell, 1996. ISBN 10: 0632030887 ISBN 13: 9780632030880.

Three most cited papers, according to Google Scholar are:

1. Fred R Hirsch, Marileila Varella-Garcia, Paul A Bunn, Wilbur A Franklin, Rafal Dziadziuszko, Nicholas Thatcher, Alex Chang, Purvish Parikh, José Rodrigues Pereira, Tudor Ciuleanu, Joachim von Pawel, Claire Watkins, Angela Flannery, Gillian Ellison, Emma Donald, Lucy Knight, Dinah Parums, Nicholas Botwood, Brian Holloway. Molecular predictors of outcome with gefitinib in a phase III placebo-controlled study in advanced non-small cell lung cancer J Clin Oncol. 2006 Nov 1;24(31):5034-42

2. LD Buttery, DR Springall, AH Chester, TJ Evans, EN Standfield, DV Parums, MH Yacoub, JM Polak. Inducible nitric oxide synthase is present within human atherosclerotic lesions and promotes the formation and activity of peroxynitrite Lab Invest 1996;75:77-85.

3.  DV Parums, JL Cordell, K Micklem, AR Heryet, KC Gatter, DY Mason. JC70 (CD31): a new monoclonal antibody that detects endothelium associated antigen on routinely processed tissue sections J Clin Pathol  1990;43:752-757.

Online CVs:

VisualCV: https://www.visualcv.com/dinahparums

Teaching and Medical Education: https://www.visualcv.com/dinahparumsteaching



Dr Dinah Parums Publications Website: http://www.dr-dinah-parums.com

Parums DV, 39 Publications cited on PubMed: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Parums+D

Parums DV, GoogleScholar: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=2BxIcIAAAAAJ&hl=en

Parums DV, Academia.Edu: https://independent.academia.edu/DinahParums

Parums DV, PublicationsList: http://publicationslist.org/dinah.parums

Author, Thomson Reuters Life Sciences Connect: http://lsconnect.thomsonreuters.com/author/dinah-parums/

Author, Healthcare-Arena: https://healthcare-arena.co.uk/author/dinahparums/

Dr Dinah Parums’ Patents: http://patents.justia.com/inventor/dinah-parums








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