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A Field Guide for Science Writers: The Official Guide of the National Association of Science Writers 2nd Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195174991
ISBN-10: 0195174992
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

From cloning to global warming, it is the most provocative issues in science that are becoming increasingly prominent in everyday life. At the same time, however, the extent of scientific knowledge has grown, and the nexus of available knowledge has become too complex for the nonscientist to navigate. Never before has the work of science writers, who bridge the gap between professional scientists and the public, been more essential.

The best guide for teaching and learning effective science writing, this second edition of A Field Guide for Science Writers improves on the classic first edition with a wider range of topics, a new slate of writers, and an up-to-date exploration of the most stimulating and challenging issues in science. In this collection of essays, nationally known science writers Deborah Blum, Mary Knudson, and Robin Marantz Henig assemble the best science writers working today to explain what they do and how to do it well. The book combines detailed and practical how-to advice with thoughtful discussions of the challenges of science journalism in the 21st century and doesn’t shy away from addressing such controversial matters as cloning, stem cell research, eugenics, medical overtreatment, and questions of scientific honesty. Offering a comprehensive overview of the field of science writing, this book discusses a broad range of media and sources, from newspapers to broadcast journalism and from corporations to government agencies. It also provides a detailed analysis of some of the hottest fields in science writing -- ranging from mental health to human genetics – and covers of a diverse array of writing styles, from "gee-whiz" to investigative.

Written by people who work for such leading news outlets as Scientific American, Popular Science, Discover, Smithsonian, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, this book is an invaluable resource for current and aspiring science writers, students and instructors in science writing and journalism, and scientists who are interested in science communication.

About the Author


Deborah Blum is a Pulitzer Prize winning science writer, former president of the National Association of Science Writers, and Professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of such award-winning books as Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection, Sex on the Brain, and The Monkey Wars. She has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Discover, Psychology Today, Life, Health, The Utne Reader, Mother Jones, and discovery.com.

Mary Knudson is a medical writer at work on a book on heart failure to be published by the Johns Hopkins University Press. She wrote about medicine for the Baltimore Sun for seventeen years and won an NASW Science-in-Society Award. On the Primary Faculty at the Johns Hopkins University Master of Arts in Writing Program, she teaches science/medical writing and the Literature of Science.

Robin Marantz Henig is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and author of 8 books, including Pandora's Baby (2004) and The Monk in the Garden (2000). She is a winner of the 2004 NASW Science-in-Society Award and three-time recipient of the June Roth Memorial Award for medical writing. Her writing appears in The Best American Science Writing 2005.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2nd edition (August 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195174992
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195174991
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.9 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kevin W. Parker on February 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
The editor's note says that the primary goal of this book is "to help train a new generation of science writers." I think the key word there is "help." One is certainly not ready to go out and be a science writer after reading this slim volume, but then one shouldn't expect to be.
What I think this book does do is to give the reader some idea of what's involved in being a science writer and to provide numerous pointers along the way. This is done in several ways. The first section of the book contains half-a-dozen chapters on the different "homes" of science writers: newspapers, magazines, journals, broadcast media, etc. The second section focuses more on technique: the use of sources, handling statistics, and so on. The third section addresses science writing from a topical perspective: how to write about subjects like biology, astronomy, and technology. And the fourth section has several chapters on being a science writer at various sorts of institutions (universities, government agencies, businesses), rather than for the media.
Each chapter is written by a different person who is an expert in that area. For someone like me who knows his science writers, there are some notable names here: Julie Ann Miller, editor of Science News, has a chapter about writing for trade journals; John Noble Wilford, who covered Project Apollo for the New York Times and wrote the very first book to come out about Apollo 11, addresses writing science books; PBS personality Ira Flatow discusses doing science on television.
The book concludes with an appendix covering useful sources of information, which seems handy. I particularly want to order the chart of the fundamental particles--I've never been able to keep those straight!
So this is a very useful book for someone going into science writing and interesting, too, to anyone who wants to know what's involved in covering science from a journalistic perspective.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Ii ordered this ebook for a science writing class that I was taking. Boy was I surprised at how entertaining this book is for just leisure reading. There are lots of different short science stories which have actually been written and published for the current year. For someone who wants some great nonfiction entertainment or is looking at different styles of journalistic writing, this is an awesome book.
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This book is written by a variety of professional writers who seem to be intent on sharing all of the (now-public) secrets to their success. Everything from finding a story to developing your style to maintaining sources and organizing information is covered. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in writing about science, and I would also mention it to anyone who would like to enrich their science writing.
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Format: Paperback
This book should have had a different title. It's not a second edition but a different book altogether. It's great but it's publication in no way changes the value of the original book, chapters from which, e.g. on writing from journals by Patrick Young and on using statistics by Victor Cohn (Yes I know that Lewis Cope has a chapter in the second book but the two are complementary rather than interchangeable) I still use in my science writing classes. The unfortunate result of this title is that the first book is virtually impossible to find now. Even just calling it "The NEW field guide..." or including the word Second or the year of publication would have sufficed. 'Twould have been more accurate - and I dare say more scientific - to do so. Should the editors or NASW ever do a third round, PLEASE give a new title or include the year/version in the title.
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I am a recently retired scientist and finally have the time to do some things important to me such as science writing. So I looked for a source to guide and inspire me. The Field Guide is all I could have wanted.

The editors have selected some of the best in the field to write and update the chapters. They begin each chapter with a helpful introduction to it's author. The Field Guide has excellent, timely, and useful information. It contains 'how to' chapters, 'where to look' and 'how to interview' chapters. Strunk and White would be impressed with the many examples of good writing. The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition

If you're a science writer, or want to be, you need the Field Guide as a reference and inspiration.
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By JDHB on March 15, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a good book. It has some great examples of science and nature writing. I enjoyed reading a lot of the pieces in it, especially the one on plastics in the North Pacific Gyre.
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A Must-Have for any science writer who takes his/her job seriously.
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