on November 8, 1999
it is unfortunate the authors did not review the most recent scientific style and format conventions of the council of biology editors(accepted internationally) that were published in 1994. had they done so, they would not have made a number of the errors that show up scattered about in the text. i use parts of this text , especially the exercises, in a course i teach on scientific writing and have to make the corrections as we go along
on March 5, 2000
Words can hardly express the beauty and cleverness of "Successful Scientific Writing" by Matthews, Bowen and Matthews as a step-by-step guide on how to write scientific reports for publication in English. I am using this book for a course that I teach on scientific writing at the Postgraduate School of Health Sciences at Aarhus University in Denmark, and I find it to be perfect! Before this book was published, there was none that dealt so well and so entertainingly with so many aspects of what it actually takes to prepare a manuscript for publication in a scientific journal. Many young (and old) scientists are good thinkers, but they are often poor writers! Thus, although they may have been able to design and carry out an experiment, they often lack the ability to express what they have done clearly and concisely. This book is for them! The first few chapters provide mainly words of encouragement for getting the writing process underway. There are also remarkable bits of advice, such as the notion of avoiding certan snacks that could derail ones momentum. In my view, the crux of the book appears in chapters 5, 6 and 7 in which extraordinarily lucid and practical instructions and exercises are presented for improving one's ability to write scientifically. There are also tips on how to optimize word-processing so that the manuscript submitted to the editor of a journal is most likely to be accepted for publication. Perhaps some old-timers in Science can do without this book, but they should nevertheless have a copy of it on hand for their students.
on November 20, 2003
"Successful Scientific Writing" is a well written, user friendly and sometimes humorous guide to effective scientific writing. Even the wire, lay open binding is user friendly. The text is up to date, well organized and provides guidance on effective use of computers and software in the entire scientific endeavor. Of course the primary strength is in helping the reader through the writing and publication of the scientist's efforts. This concise work would be especially appropriate as a text in scientific writing classes. The exercises provided would be great student assignments. Additionally the exercises are fun and enhance points made in the text. Matthews, et al have given us a guide that is appropriate for advanced writers as well. Virtually every page has gems of wisdom or insights that will enhance the end result of scientific communication. This book may be especially helpful for those that are "stuck" in trying to get started writing or have complete "writers block". After reading and using this book, readers will likely be thankful that the authors have so adeptly conveyed their wisdom and vast experience in helping others to write with greater clarity and brevity.
on July 7, 2003
Our lab used this book for a study group on effective scientific writing. We are located in Korea, so with the exception of the instructor and I, all participants were not native speakers of English. As a result, this review is from the viewpoint of foreign students. It is based on chapter reviews written by the members of our lab after finishing the book.
The book is just what it claims to be, a step-by-step approach to writing a scientific manuscript intended for publication. The first chapter helpfully furnishes a checklist (Table 1.3) for preparing a research paper. The chapter is actually a summary of the rest of the book so a reader already in the process of writing can easily find which chapter they wish to skip to via Table 1.3.
In the subsequent chapters, the authors provide good advice accompanied by helpful tables, examples and exercises, although the figure chapter could have used more tips on actually preparing the figures. Examples of poorly prepared and corrected figures would be a useful study aid. One student suggested that the second chapter on computer use was not particularly informative for graduate-level students. Regarding the chapter on grammar (chapter 6), another student pointed out that in some scientific articles, ungrammatical sentences are not corrected in order to effectively deliver the point.
The overall use of informal expressions and phrases seemed intended to make the text livelier for English-speaking students, but was confusing for several participants with English as a second language. We would like to suggest that the authors take their own advice and refrain from using slang and jargon. Several of us liked Appendix 2 and thought it was a good read for those unfamiliar with the practice of journal editors.
Apparently the authors had intended to attract those who had not already submitted a manuscript to read their book, but Successful Scientific Writing contains many helpful pointers for published scientists and journal editors, as well.
on December 9, 1998
This is a funny, well-written, thorough, and authoritative book that goes through every step in the process of creating a journal article, including some topics unique to this process, like how to deal with multi-author editing, peer review, and lit searches. Lots of great advice about how to overcome writer's block. Although the book is written with biomedical science in mind, the advice on grammar, style, structure, and process management is useful to all technical writers. No scientist should be without it.