Writing plays a central role in the communication of scientific ideas and is therefore a key aspect in researcher education, ultimately determining the success and long-term sustainability of their careers. Despite the growing popularity of e-learning, we are not aware of any existing study comparing on-line vs. traditional classroom-based methods for teaching scientific writing.
Forty eight participants from a medical, nursing and physiotherapy background from US and Brazil were randomly assigned to two groups (n = 24 per group): An on-line writing workshop group (on-line group), in which participants used virtual communication, google docs and standard writing templates, and a standard writing guidance training (standard group) where participants received standard instruction without the aid of virtual communication and writing templates. Two outcomes, manuscript quality was assessed using the scores obtained in Six subgroup analysis scale as the primary outcome measure, and satisfaction scores with Likert scale were evaluated. To control for observer variability, inter-observer reliability was assessed using Fleiss's kappa. A post-hoc analysis comparing rates of communication between mentors and participants was performed. Nonparametric tests were used to assess intervention efficacy.
Excellent inter-observer reliability among three reviewers was found, with an Intraclass Correlation Coefficient (ICC) agreement = 0.931882 and ICC consistency = 0.932485. On-line group had better overall manuscript quality (p = 0.0017, SSQSavg score 75.3 ± 14.21, ranging from 37 to 94) compared to the standard group (47.27 ± 14.64, ranging from 20 to 72). Participant satisfaction was higher in the on-line group (4.3 ± 0.73) compared to the standard group (3.09 ± 1.11) (p = 0.001). The standard group also had fewer communication events compared to the on-line group (0.91 ± 0.81 vs. 2.05 ± 1.23; p = 0.0219).
Our protocol for on-line scientific writing instruction is better than standard face-to-face instruction in terms of writing quality and student satisfaction. Future studies should evaluate the protocol efficacy in larger longitudinal cohorts involving participants from different languages.