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A Field Guide for Science Writers

The Official Guide of the National Association of Science Writers

Second Edition

Edited by Deborah Blum, Mary Knudson, and Robin Marantz Henig

Publication Date - August 2005

ISBN: 9780195174991

336 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

The official text for the National Association of Science Writers


This is the official text for the National Association of Science Writers. In the eight years since the publication of the first edition of A Field Guide for Science Writing, much about the world has changed. Some of the leading issues in today's political marketplace - embryonic stem cell research, global warming, health care reform, space exploration, genetic privacy, germ warfare - are informed by scientific ideas. Never has it been more crucial for the lay public to be scientifically literate. That's where science writers come in. And that's why it's time for an update to the Field Guide, already a staple of science writing graduate programs across the country.

The academic community has recently recognized how important it is for writers to become more sophisticated, knowledgeable, and skeptical about what they write. More than 50 institutions now offer training in science writing. In addition mid-career fellowships for science writers are growing, giving journalists the chance to return to major universities for specialized training. We applaud these developments, and hope to be part of them with this new edition of the Field Guide.

In A Field Guide for Science Writers, 2nd Edition, the editors have assembled contributions from a collections of experienced journalists who are every bit as stellar as the group that contributed to the first edition. In the end, what we have are essays written by the very best in the science writing profession. These wonderful writers have written not only about style, but about content, too. These leaders in the profession describe how they work their way through the information glut to find the gems worth writing about. We also have chapters that provide the tools every good science writer needs: how to use statistics, how to weigh the merits of conflicting studies in scientific literature, how to report about risk. And, ultimately, how to write.


  • The official text for the National Association of Science Writers
  • Includes essays written by the very best in the science writing profession
  • Chapters provide the tools every good science writer needs
  • Helps writers to become more sophisticated, knowledgeable, and skeptical about what they write

About the Author(s)

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.

Table of Contents

    Foreword, Timothy Ferris
    Part One: Learning the Craft
    Introduction, Mary Knudson
    1. Finding Story Ideas and Sources, Philip M. Yan
    2. Reporting From Science Journals, Tom Siegfried
    3. Understanding and Using Statistics, Lewis Cope
    4. Writing Well About Science: Techniques From Teachers of Science Writing
    5. Taking Your Story to the Next Level, Nancy Shute
    6. Finding a Voice and a Style, David Everett
    Part Two: Choosing Your Market
    Introduction, Carey Goldberg
    7. Small Newspapers, Ron Steely
    8. Large Newspapers, Robert Lee Hotz
    9. Popular Magazines, Janice Hopkins Tanne
    10. Trade and Science Journals, Colin Norman
    11. Broadcast Science Journalism, Joe Palca
    12. Freelance Writing, Kathryn Brown
    13. Science Books, Carl Zimmer
    14. Popular Audiences on the Web, Alan Boyle
    15. Science Audiences on the Web, Tabitha Powledge
    16. Science Editing, Mariette DiChristina
    Part Three: Varying Your Writing Style
    Introduction, Robin Marantz Henig
    17. Deadline Writing, Gareth Cook
    18. Investigative Reporting, Antonio Regalado
    19. Gee Whiz Science Writing, Robert Kunzig
    20. Explanatory Writing, George Johnson
    21. Narrative Writing, James Shreeve
    22. The Science Essay, Robert Kanigel
    Part Four: Covering Stories in the Life Sciences
    Introduciton, Deborah Blum
    23. Medicine, Shannon Brownlee
    24. Infectious Diseases, Marilyn Chase
    25. Nutrition, Sally Squires
    26. Mental Health, Paul Raeburn
    27. The Biology of Behavior, Kevin Begos
    28. Human Genetics, Antonio Regalado
    29. Cloning and Stem Cell Research, Stephen S. Hall
    Part Five: Covering Stories in the Physical and Environmental Sciences
    Introduction, Deborah Blum
    30. Technology and Engineering, Kenneth Chang
    31. Space Science, Michael D. Lemonick
    32. The Environment, Andrew C. Revkin
    33. Nature, McKay Jenkins
    34. Earth Sciences, Glennda Chui
    35. Climate, Usha Lee McFarling
    36. Risk Reporting, Cristine Russell
    Part Six: Communicating Science From Institutions
    Taking a Different Path--Journalists and Public Information Officers: Similarities and Differences, The Editors
    Introduction, John D. Toon
    37. Universities, Earle Holland
    38. Institutional Communications During Crisis, Joann Ellison Rodgers
    39. Government Agencies, Colleen Henrichsen
    40. Nonprofits, Frank Blanchard
    41. Museums, Mary Miller
    42. Corporate Public Relations, Marion Glick
    Epilogue, James Gleick

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