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Writing Science: How to Write Papers That Get Cited and Proposals That Get Funded [Paperback]

Joshua Schimel

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Book Description

Oct. 26 2011
As a scientist, you are a professional writer: your career is built on successful proposals and papers. Success isn't defined by getting papers into print, but by getting them into the reader's consciousness. Writing Science is built upon the idea that successful science writing tells a story. It uses that insight to discuss how to write more effectively. Integrating lessons from other genres of writing with those from the author's years of experience as author, reviewer, and editor, the book shows scientists and students how to present their research in a way that is clear and that will maximize reader comprehension. The book takes an integrated approach, using the principles of story structure to discuss every aspect of successful science writing, from the overall structure of a paper or proposal to individual sections, paragraphs, sentences, and words. It begins by building core arguments, analyzing why some stories are engaging and memorable while others are quickly forgotten, and proceeds to the elements of story structure, showing how the structures scientists and researchers use in papers and proposals fit into classical models. The book targets the internal structure of a paper, explaining how to write clear and professional sections, paragraphs, and sentences in a way that is clear and compelling. The ideas within a paper should flow seamlessly, drawing readers along. The final section of the book deals with special challenges, such as how to discuss research limitations and how to write for the public. Writing Science is a much-needed guide to succeeding in modern science. Its insights and strategies will equip science students, scientists, and professionals across a wide range of scientific and technical fields with the tools needed to communicate effectively.

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Writing Science: How to Write Papers That Get Cited and Proposals That Get Funded + How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing
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"The book is well produced ... [and] could form a solid basis for a scientific writing course." --Ecology


About the Author

Joshua Schimel is Chair of the Environmental Studies Program and Professor of Soil and Ecosystem Ecology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is a leading environmental scientist, studying how soil processes regulate ecosystems and the earth's climate. He has authored over 100 papers and has served on panels for the National Science Foundation, NASA, and other agencies.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  27 reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for scientists at all levels Dec 8 2011
By Brad - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are lots of books on science writing available and they take you painstakingly through every nuance of structure and detail required to produce a scientific manuscript. This book is different. It focuses on how to write a compelling story. I have 70 published papers in international, peer-reviewed journals; and I want to go back to each and every one of them and rewrite them with the messages from this book clear in my head and clear to the reader. This book focuses on you as a writer first and foremost, and a scientist second. It distills what I've been trying to teach my own students, with insight and clarity far more considered and polished than my own, in an engaging and fun read. If you want to write proposals that get funded, and papers that get widely-cited, then read this book and put its lessons to work. I loved the book: it's now the lab-group reading for next semester.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly helpful and surprisingly entertaining June 18 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book was much more useful than I thought it would be. My expectation was that it would contain some helpful pointers, but that it would not revolutionize my writing. Having nearly 30 papers/book chapters, more than 1000 citations, and some funded proposals under my belt already, I thought I had a decent grasp on scientific writing. This book helped me realize that I had a lot to learn - and then taught it to me! The best part about it is that it solidifies nebulous ideas about good and bad writing, and provides concrete ways to organize your writing, from the level of the whole paper down to individual sentences. Now I wish I could go back in time to rewrite all of my previous papers!

Also, I was expecting this book to be helpful, but dry read, but was pleasantly surprised by how engaging it was. Who would have thought that a book on science writing would actually be entertaining and funny, while being reassuring at the same time? It really is an entertaining and easy read, though.

I have already had all of my graduate students read this book, and have been talking about it incessantly at meetings. My postdoc has been doing the same thing - without any prompting from me. It has had a profound influence on the way the folks in my lab think about science writing, and has altered my perspective on writing forever. Be warned, however, that after you read this book you will want to start relentlessly editing all of the scientific writing you read.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really good non-fiction book on writing which is actually interesting like a best seller fiction book Dec 6 2011
By Avi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is not a fiction book you read before you go to bed. It is one of "boring" science related books; probably more aimed towards people who just started their career in science as PhD student. However, this book excited me by its clear messages and very engaging writing style. If you are scientist you don't hear every day or even at all that science writing is "STORY TELLING". This main message clearly stuck in my head. Author does not just plainly said so, he eloquently "told" his "story" about "story telling" with well-chosen examples from published articles and enriched it with his extensive experience in reviewing numerous grant proposal and papers. He didn't stop with only "story telling"; he presented techniques how to do in the second part of his book. Overall this was probably the best book on this subject by not only its content, but also its writing style. Therefore I would definitely recommend this book to read.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars must-read for every graduate student or scientist Oct. 29 2012
By Everyman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I recently read this book as well as David Lindsay's Scientific Writing = Thinking in Words. Both are good, but of the two, Schimel's book is more complete, more nuanced, and more fun to read. His main focus is that, in order to be read, remembered, and cited, you must present your work as an interesting story. He explains the elements of storytelling as they relate to science writing, and how to employ those elements throughout your paper. Each chapter has examples throughout and exercises at the end.

I recommend both Schimel's book and Lindsay's for anyone who has to write about scientific research. If you want to choose only one, Lindsay is quicker, but Schimel is better.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There are very few scientists, let alone students, who will not benefit substantially from a careful read of this book Oct. 28 2013
By Paul Grogan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Writing is not easy; writing well is very difficult. As readers, we are deluged with a seemingly exponentially increasing number of science papers. Consequently, we are becoming ever more ruthless and discriminating in `sorting the wheat from the chaff'. Therefore, as authors, if we want our papers and grant proposals to fall into the former category, almost all of us need to substantially improve our writing. This book clearly describes the fundamental principles and practices of writing clear, synthetic, and easily readable science text that is likely to enthuse and inspire your readers. As such, it will be of great benefit to graduate students in developing their writing skills, but I anticipate that it will be of even more value to those who are already experienced in the whole science writing process.

In writing the book, Dr. Schimel practiced what he preaches. It is an excellent and entertaining read, with lots of stimulating and interesting anecdotes and broad linkages (such as to the speeches and writings of Winston Churchill and other non-scientists). The structure, flow and readability of the book are exemplary (as one would expect), but in addition he makes excellent use of short tight and longer more expansive sentences, as well as dashes and semi-colons. Furthermore, the text includes some real gems including why the process of writing science actually improves the intellectual quality of your science, and why when someone else edits your work, or you edit theirs, the initial edited text changes may be changed again - even changed back to the original text! There are very useful chapters dedicated to the particular challenges of writing science for non-native English speakers, and of writing successfully for non-specialist public audiences. Furthermore, there's a whole chapter of excellently described ideas for dealing with the thorny issue of the various limitations that underlie almost any science study. Finally, the author analyses numerous relevant examples of scientific text for their strengths and weaknesses, and even includes several whole paragraphs which he systematically improves through a detailed series of suggested remedies.

Overall, this really excellent book is likely to greatly benefit not just science students, but also a huge proportion of apparently `fully fledged' scientists. Understanding and applying the tools described here will benefit both your writing and your science.

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