Publisher: Sinauer/Freeman Date of Publication: 2005
Price: ISBN: 0 7167 6709 0
Pages: xvi + 237 Format: Paperback

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1 - The scientific method; 2 - Finding primary references; 3 - Reading and writing scientific papers; 4 - step-by-step instructions for preparing a laboratory report or scientific paper; 5 - Revision; 6 - A 'good' sample student laboratory report; 7 - Poster presentations; 8 - Oral presentations; Appendices: Word processing, XY graphs in Excel; oral reports with PowerPoint.



Science writing has been a concern for decades and there have been many texts about this topic for the same length of time. Today, when communication has been given more prominence, this skill is probably more in demand (especially if a science grant rests on it) but this doesn't mean that student quality has risen to meet the challenge. There's some truth in the notion that standards, especially of grammar and spelling, have declined. Wherever the reality actually is there's no doubt that clarity of expression is vital. To this end, the author has tried to put together a small, practical guide to maximising communication.

Rather than start with the lab report, the author starts with a description of the scientific method. Although unusual there is sound reasoning behind it. The aim is to create a context within which the student should place their work. This moves on to finding some primary references - in this context, journal articles and web sites. In addition to using some sources such a bibliographic databases there are also ideas on how to use the internet and how to critically evaluate sources (a valuable skill that could really have done with a longer and more sophisticated explanation that that given). The next chapter deals with the early report - how to set it up, qualities to look for, correct formats, referencing etc. Some of this is expanded in chapter four which a breakdown of the stages one-by-one so that the reader can see exactly how the report should be constructed. This is followed by revision, not for an exam, but a correction of the first draft. To assist, chapter six presents a good report which not only gives the text but also a sidebar which offers regular constructive criticism of every paragraph as well as an overall impression. Not all work is essay-type. Chapter seven looks at the increasingly important world of the poster presentation and how to create one. The final chapter looks at oral presentations, another key form especially for school and undergraduate students. 3 appendices gives some basic grounding in Microsoft's © Word, Excel and PowerPoint with brief but useful insights into the most common requirements.

One obvious element for a clear writing text is that it should be clear reading and this text passes. A very wide range of topics is covered but some of these are only very brief. It's a good indication of the text to say that it should have been longer allowing it to get more material across and to go into those areas which area really too brief to be of any use. This notwithstanding, the book has a clear, breezy approach which makes reading a pleasure - it follows its own teachings! Although there might be some material less relevant to a UK student (this having a US author and focus) there is certainly enough to raise the grade of most students. Communication at any stage is vital but especially so at the school beginner level. Anything that helps, like this book, is to be welcomed.

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