Monday, January 14, 2008

Books about writing part II

How To Write and Publish a Scientific Paper by Robert A. Day
Currently in it's sixth edition, now co-written by Barbara Gastel. Way back in 2001 when I wrote my first paper, I bought the fifth edition of this masterpiece, and actually learned so much from it that I purchased the following edition when it came out. As a graduate student, one's writing style is heavily influenced by the style of one's advisor, but before you can get words of wisdom and input from your Overlord of Academic Progression, you've got to make a draft. Odds are that if you roll into the office of your probably overworked advisor with a blank look and a straw in the corner of your mouth asking ", I've got to write dis paper, right, and I was wonderin', like, where to start and stuff. Do I really have ta write a - whatchucallit - intramaduction?" you'll get the verbal thrashing you so richly deserve.

So; having established that you need to have a draft in order to harvest advice from your superiors, you're left with a number of choices. One of these is to reinvent the wheel, hammering out each section by yourself and probably having to reorganize the entire manuscript a number of times. Another, perhaps more popular possibility is to pick out some key publications within the same field - probably including that of your advisor - and emulate the structure and voice.

If you want to develop your own style and organization, that's where this book comes in. Based on the IMRAD (Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion) organization, this primer gives you everything you need in order to write your first - or even first couple of - manuscripts using your own words and preferred organization. It specifies what content goes in which section, provides guidelines for authorship, making tables and graphics, referencing, and even the dreaded Results + Discussion vs. Results AND Discussion. There's an extensive section on how to avoid empty phrases and jargon (where possible), and even a description of the entire submission + review + editor's decision process, with each step detailed.

If you're about to write your first scientific paper, or if you've written a few and you find the entire process to be counterintuitive and a chore, buy this book. it NOW!

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