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The Chicago Guide to Communicating Science (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing) Paperback – December 15, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0226534855 ISBN-10: 0226534855 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing
  • Paperback: 239 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (December 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226534855
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226534855
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Montgomery wants scientists to cast off the straitjacket of convention when they write for other scientists, or at least to ask a friend to loosen the ties. He covers a huge amount of ground, from papers and review articles to book reviews, technical reports, presentations, and online publishing. He has some excellent practical advice for nervous publishing virgins with writer's block as well as encouragement for more experienced writers flirting coyly with metaphor and the occasional rhetorical flourish."
(New Scientist)

"Montgomery's Chicago Guide to Communicating Science has all the authority one would expect from the publishers of The Chicago Manual of Style. . . . [He] covers with scholarly grace topics ranging from writing scientific papers and grant proposals to preparing articles for the general public."
(Chris Quigg Physics Today)

"I am pleased to recommend this straightforward, realistic, and accessible guide, which is written with elegance and humor, to anyone--from graduate student to senior scientist--concerned with improving the ffectiveness of communicating scientific ideas or data to colleagues or the general public."George B. Kauffman, Chemical Educator
(George B. Kauffman Chemical Educator)

“This guide is a superb one, well written, and a pleasure to read (how often can one say that about a guide to writing for scientists?).”
(Ann C. Jordan-Paker E-Streams)

“[Montgomery] has written a masterful, concise guide, densely packed with all the information needed by the young, upwardly mobile assistant professor. Even those who have already scaled the heights have an obligation to share their findings with their colleagues in the scientific community. This book will answer their questions, too. . . . Any scientist who prepares findings for presentation in any form will benefit from this book, as will anyone who intends ever to read a paper or a textbook.”
(Alexander W. Gotta JAMA)

“[The book] is full . . . of practical advice and realistic and helpful examples, presented with humor and sympathy for the struggling scientist-author. Any scientist looking to improve his or her writing or to gain insights into the different forms of scientific communication would profit from reading this book.”
(Susan Duhon Science Editor)

"A no nonsense guide to writing papers, grant proposals, and articles for the layperson, using reviews effectively, preparing and presenting speeches, and dealing with the press. This guide should find a prominent spot on the shelf of scientists and students.”
(Ecobeetle) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

Whether you are a graduate student or a senior scientist, your reputation rests on the ability to communicate your ideas and data. In this straightforward and accessible guide, Scott L. Montgomery offers detailed, practical advice on crafting every sort of scientific communication, from research papers and conference talks to review articles, interviews with the media, e-mail messages, and more. Montgomery avoids the common pitfalls of other guides by focusing not on rules and warnings but instead on how skilled writers and speakers actually learn their trade-by imitating and adapting good models of expression. Moving step-by-step through samples from a wide variety of scientific disciplines, he shows precisely how to choose and employ such models, where and how to revise different texts, how to use visuals to enhance your presentation of ideas, why writing is really a form of experimentation, and more.

He also traces the evolution of scientific expression over time, providing a context crucial for understanding the nature of technical communication today. Other chapters take up the topics of writing creatively in science; how to design and use graphics; and how to talk to the public about science. Written with humor and eloquence, this book provides a unique and realistic guide for anyone in the sciences wishing to improve his or her communication skills.

Practical and concise, The Chicago Guide to Communicating Science covers:

*Writing scientific papers, abstracts, grant proposals, technical reports, and articles for the general public
*Using graphics effectively
*Surviving and profiting from the review process
*Preparing oral presentations
*Dealing with the press and the public
*Publishing and the Internet
*Writing in English as a foreign language

More About the Author

Scott L. Montgomery (website: is an author, geologist, and lecturer. Over the past 20 years, he has written a large number of technical papers related to energy and pursued an interest in interdisciplinary subjects that cross the boundary between the sciences and humanities. His books, essays, and other publications have contributed to a number of fields, including the history of education, history of science, translation studies, language studies, and scientific communication. He teaches in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington (Seattle), and has lectured at many universities in the U.S. and internationally. He has received several awards for his writing, as well as a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship. His work, Powers that Be: Global Energy for the 21st Century and Beyond (Chicago, 2010), was chosen as a Choice Outstanding Title for 2011. His most recent book is: Does Science Need a Global Language? English and the Future of Global Research (University of Chicago Press), published in 2013

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By JPHT on February 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
After reading a review in New Scientist magazine I got excited about this book as I am currently writing Ph.D. thesis. I did not get exactly what I expected.
The book gives a good overview of the different types of writing a scientist is expected to do and gives high level advice on each area. But that's pretty much all the books seems to do. It's as if you were to sit down with someone with a lot of writing experience and they gave you some high level advice.
What the book lacks is specific advice and tips on what works. At many points it feels too vague. While it has examples where the author improves a piece of writing, the examples often fail to give you ideas on how to improve your own writing.
That said, I did get a couple of ideas from the book for my writing, but I felt it took some work to extract them from the book which at times just felt like a rambling commentary.
My recommendation is that it's not a book worth having in a personal bookcase, but it may be worth borrowing it from a library.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By RagingCoconut on June 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
In the realm of scientific research, technical writing skills are necessary for effective communication of ideas and results. This book is not the typical "how-to" guide to technical writing and grammar for the novice. Instead, it is a practical book packed with useful insights from an experienced scientific writer. The numerous examples of writing styles and graphics are clear and well-illustrated. Each chapter addresses important concepts in fundamental areas, such as proposal preparation, manuscript revision, and oral presentation. This is the sort of book to buy and keep as a reference as the need arises.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bukkene Bruse VINE VOICE on August 3, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Montgomery's guide deals primarily with higher level issues in science writing, at least in the first sections. However, he does follow his own advice in going from the general to the specific when he discusses particular forms of science writing, the use of graphics, and oral presentations. Montgomery has useful things to say at every turn, but I found the core strength of the book to be how he solidly and clearly gets across the idea that "true elegance in science resides in simplicity and restraint." Much of the higher level discussion deals with writing well (proficient functional communication) versus writing very well (creatively, within the constraint of restraint). Montgomery stresses the importance of reading well to writing well, and gives suggestions on how to become a better critical reader. Be forewarned: this guide does not deal with grammar, syntax or style.

I read this book because I am an applied mathematician who needs to communicate results to biologists. While writing mathematics is not explicitly covered in this book, and there are major difference between scientific writing and mathematics writing, I do believe the major tenets of this guide will be useful to applied mathematicians of most any stripe.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Yasmin Lucero on February 18, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a book for experienced scientist/writers interested in becoming excellent scientist/writers. For this, the author prescribes a rigorous course of critical reading, selection of writing models, and imitation. It offers little in the way of practical suggestions for the beginner, almost nothing on basic style and syntax, and nothing on how to stay motivated through the long slog of the Ph.D. thesis. (For these purposes, let me suggest "10 Lessons in Style, Clarity and Grace" by Williams, "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White, or "How to Write A Lot" by Silva)

However, Montgomery discusses intelligently the distinct "scientific voice." He has insightful things to say about each of the various forms of scientific writing. I particularly appreciated his discussion of review articles; he pointed out that reviews can be organized around experimental results, theoretical concepts, the history of a field or method, among other things. This discussion helped me refine my thinking enough to write a solid outline for a current review project of mine.

Although his official prescription for becoming an excellent writer may require more commitment than many are willing to make, there is still much insight here for scientists seeking to improve upon their functional, but basic, writing skills.
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