The 'Refinery' Method for Scientific Writing

A black pen lies on the blank page of a notebook, next to pages torn out and crumpled into balls. Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

The term “refine” is defined as the improvement of a process, theory, or machine through small changes. Accordingly, the refinery method of writing is drafting an article through multiple distinct versions, each of which has been altered from the previous version.

The first step of the refinery method is to write a complete draft of a section or blog post, start to finish. Don’t stress about how it begins, ends, or what happens in between. Once it’s written, read through it and note potential major changes.

Next, open a fresh word document or get a fresh piece of paper and rewrite the entire draft. This time, incorporate the noted changes as you write. Again, read through the freshly completed draft and note any major changes that you might like to make.

In (or on) a fresh document, again rewrite the entire draft. Once completed, again read and note any major changes. These steps can be completed any number of times, until the overall structure of the draft is satisfactory.

The refinery method is generally used when writing fiction, however, it can also be adapted to academic and/or scientific writing. I suggest using it when the overall structure or narrative doesn’t seem readily apparent. Getting the words onto paper in the order that comes most naturally enables their order and suitability to be evaluated.


7 Methods for Writing Your First Draft

The introduction and full list of methods for writing the first manuscript draft.

Ada K. Hagan, Ph.D.
Ada K. Hagan, Ph.D.
Owner, Lead Consultant

I am a microbiologist with a passion for making science accessible. I hope to use my background in communications and higher education to help make scientific concepts more easily understood and make the academy more inclusive to future scientists from all backgrounds.