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Writing Science: How to Write Papers That Get Cited and Proposals That Get Funded Paperback – November 29, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0199760244 ISBN-10: 0199760241 Edition: 1st

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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 6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"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 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, N.A.S.A., and other agencies.

More About the Author

I grew up in New York City, loving the outdoors but thinking I wanted to be a chemist. I only discovered soil science after I graduated from College and was working as a technician in an ecosystem ecology lab. I'd never liked biology but I'd never realized that it could let you do chemistry with a view out the window that wasn't looking over the East River to Brooklyn, but over Toolik Lake and the arctic cottongrass south to the Brooks Range, and the world. It's even more fun when the snow's flying and the mosquitoes are not.

I became a Professor, first at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and now at UC Santa Barbara, as well as journal editor, Program Chair, and other jobs that need doing to keep science and Academe running. But the real fun in being a scientist will always be the rush of a new data set. There is nothing like the "Huh!?" of a "What an Idiot" moment, when something that had been puzzling suddenly becomes clear, leaving me wondering how I'd been such an idiot not to have seen it before.

Somewhere along the line I became interested in communication and how we tell the story to explain our results; marrying an aspiring writer didn't hurt either. I put together my first workshop on writing science when I was spending the summer in a lab in Montpellier, France; that morphed into a full-blown graduate class back in Santa Barbara. I started writing up notes from class and thought I might flesh them out in a few columns for the Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America. Everything was going smoothly until the "What an Idiot" moment: I wasn't writing a few essays--I was writing a book. Huh.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Therefore I would definitely recommend this book to read.
Avi
I have already had all of my graduate students read this book, and have been talking about it incessantly at meetings.
Amazon Customer
In writing the book, Dr. Schimel practiced what he preaches.
Paul Grogan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Brad on December 8, 2011
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.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 18, 2012
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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.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Avi on December 6, 2011
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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.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Everyman on October 29, 2012
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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.
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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.
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