Writing for Science Journals: Tips, Tricks, and a Learning Plan
G Hart, Diaskeuasis Publishing, 2014, 434pp, £22 (pbk), ISBN 978 1 92797 201 4
Reviewed by Helen MacDonald
Recommended for those new to writing journal manuscripts, but also for those more familiar with the process and looking to improve their science writing skills, Writing for Science Journals: Tips, Tricks, and a Learning Plan provides invaluable advice on how to construct a manuscript that will appease peer reviewers and allow your research to be accessed and understood by the wider science community.
Laid out in a clear and concise format, Geoff Hart explains, step by step, how to use the general journal structure and format to your advantage and construct a robust argument, including how best to use figures and tables to summarise and explain key information, and how to present data in a way that is accessible and reinforces your reasoning and theories. This is explained not just in the context of communicating research in an appealing way to other scientists but also with peer reviewers in mind, to engage their attention, making it easier for them to review your research and ultimately reduce the chance of your manuscript being rejected through frustration.
Hart has worked as a science editor for more than 25 years and frequently draws on this personal experience to reinforce particular points, explaining in a comprehensive and engaging way why transparency in writing research is essential and how to avoid the common pitfalls associated with science writing and data presentation.
Even though the main focus of this book is on how writing can be used as a powerful medium to communicate research and ideas, in particular focusing on the overall layout of a manuscript and the various tools that can be used to enhance it, Hart goes further, and provides suggestions and advice for key events before and after the writing of the manuscript. This includes how a robust experimental design could save a lot of time and anguish in the long run, how to respond to queries raised by peer reviewers and even what to expect after your manuscript is accepted. The book gives a fantastic overall view of writing for science journals and the process of publication, and provides plenty of suggestions for further reading and where more information on particular topics can be obtained.
The book is well laid out and exceptionally well written, and the information is accessible and relevant. The chapter titles are concise and make it easy for readers to locate particular topics or find sections of the book with the information most applicable to them. Although reading through the whole book at least once is recommended, each section is summarised by key points that could be easily reviewed for those short on time.
As Hart rightly states, science is not much use unless it is shared with the research community. Sharing of knowledge provides the route through which science and technology can advance and evolve and this book can help you make that step.