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

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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.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (November 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199760241
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199760244
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.6 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.4 ounces

Customer Reviews

an engaging page turner

4 people found this helpful.
 on January 22, 2016
By Paul Beier
For about 5 years, I have used Angelika Hofmann’s book when I teach university classes on scientific writing. Hofmann’s book provides a detailed “bottom-up” approach to writing. But I am switching to Schimel’s book, which takes a “top down” or “big picture” approach to writing science. Although it sounds silly to call any book on technical writing an engaging page-turner, I will say just that: Schimel’s book on technical writing is an engaging page-turner. Every graduate student in the sciences should own and read this book. Then use Hofmann’s book as a reference for the details.

Buy ’em both!

4 people found this helpful.
 on October 26, 2014
By faculty
I love this book! The author, Joshua Schimel, is quite correct in asserting that science writing must go beyond getting everything technically correct to being a compelling story that grabs the reader’s attention as to the significance of what has been found. That will move the writing toward getting published and toward being appreciated for its substance and value, as indicated by being cited. And it will move research proposals toward getting funded. So buy this book for excellent guidance and examples on how to write science in an engaging and effective manner that has impact on a broad audience rather than just narrow cliques. That said, though, writing research proposals that get funded requires more than compelling writing. That is certainly necessary, but not sufficient. More is required, such as a well-thought-out logic model, a detailed and appropriate budget, and a budget narrative that links the written narrative to resources and what can realistically be accomplished. So for the whole package on successfully writing research proposals, I recommend this book and Cynthia Carr’s “The Nuts & Bolts of Grant Writing.” Carr’s book burrows into the real-life details of how to write proposals within college and university settings that will engage reviewers and improve the likelihood of getting funded. For successfully writing research proposals the two books complement each other well, and I recommend buying both.

Good book about writing principles, not rules

4 people found this helpful.
 on May 30, 2014
By C. Tomasi
I love the fact that this book is about principles, not about rules. I bought paper copies for my students, but I also read it myself on my Kindle. I have written science for more than twenty years, and I think I do fine, but I still learned something from this book. It teaches how to write science as a story that readers get engrossed in and will remember. There is an arc of opening-challenge-action-resolution in a good paper or proposal, and the same or a similar arc is replicated at the chapter, paragraph, and sentence level. The book has examples of good and bad prose and structure, and these are usefully discussed and analyzed. Most of the examples come from environmental studies, the author’s field of expertise, but this is not a problem if you work in a different field (as I do), as the examples are well chosen with a broad readership in mind. Exercises at the end of each chapter have a straightforward structure: pick a paper/chapter/paragraph/sentence from someone else’s paper and improve it; then do the same to one of your own. I plan to set up a reading/working group with my students, and we’ll do the exercises. Writing well is hard, but there is no way around it if you are in science. It can also be very rewarding to see the final product, and even more satisfying to see the difference between first and last draft, so keep intermediate versions around. This book motivates you and guides you through this necessary struggle. You can actually read the book cover to cover, in contrast with rule-based books, and it’s pleasant reading.

A book about how to be a professional scientific writer

4 people found this helpful.
 on July 17, 2014
By Sunu Wibirama
This is book is “a must have” writing book for research scientists. If you ever wish about how you should develop your attitude to be a true writer, than this book is definitely for you. The success rate of researchers comes from citations of their papers, not merely the amount of published papers. Professor Schimel tells us that reading a research paper should be engaging. Thus, it is the task of the writer to make reader’s jobs easier. As a scientist, we should keep in our mind that we are a professional writer, not only engineer, mathematician, or programmer. The role of scientists is to collect data and transform them into understanding. Their role as authors is to present that understanding.

Useful book

2 people found this helpful.
 on June 12, 2016
By Book_Reader
The book is a bit wordy and takes examples mostly in biology, which is the author’s field of expertise. However, I definitely learned something. So I recommend to read it for anybody who is going to write many research articles in the future.

Concise and a handbook for any writer of science wanting to get published

2 people found this helpful.
 on May 17, 2014
By Rhys Tague
I’m going through the process of writing my PhD thesis. Thinking I need some literature on writing, I searched around for books on the topic. I read a few, and then came across this one.

Writing science as if writing a novel

2 people found this helpful.
 on May 30, 2014
By Wei
In addition to many other good features, the most distinct feature of the book is that it treats writing science as if writing a novel. This involves several different approaches, of which the basic is the OCAR: Opening, Challenge, Action and Resolution. OCAR can not only serve as the fundamental layout of the whole paper, but also applies to paragraphs and sentences.

In best writings, this engagement approaches a level comparable to …

 on January 28, 2017
By Relativity
As you read this book, you will discover that writing is not only about communicating bare ideas and facts but an art which in and of itself is worth learning. In essence, this art is about creating a seamless flow of ideas one after another such that it becomes natural for the readers to remain continually engaged from the first to last word. In best writings, this engagement approaches a level comparable to an ‘absorption’ or ‘joy’ one experiences with a piece of serene music. If you aspire to provide such an experience to your readers ( and yourself), this book is worth reading.

Simple, elegant and effective

One person found this helpful.
 on November 17, 2014
By Kyle
This book is a great read. Not only does it read like a novel, but it also gives you small exercises that dramatically improve your writing. I read this book through once without doing the exercises, but only got the most out of the book when I re-read it and actually took time to do the exercises. A must have for up-and-coming researchers.

Young scientists and aspirants do not miss this book!

One person found this helpful.
 on April 22, 2015
By M. Machado
The book Writing Science stands out among books that help scientists to write well. I’m a young scientist that has read a couple of books on writing and communication, and published a couple of papers before reading Schimel’s book. This book is not be the only book you need to perfect your writing skill, but you will profit a lot if you start with it. If you have not read a good book on the subject and published a single paper, I recommend you to read this book a second time at least six months after the first time because some of its ideas need time to percolate.

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