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Scientific Writing and Communication

Papers, Proposals, and Presentations

Fourth Edition

Angelika H. Hofmann

Publication Date - November 2019

ISBN: 9780190063283

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

A comprehensive one-stop reference guide to scientific writing and communication


Scientific Writing and Communication: Papers, Proposals, and Presentations, Fourth Edition, covers all the areas of scientific communication that a scientist needs to know and master in order to successfully promote his or her research and career. This unique "all-in-one" handbook begins with a discussion of the basic principles of scientific writing style and composition and then applies these principles to writing research papers, review articles, grant proposals, research statements, and résumés, as well as to preparing academic presentations and posters.

New to this Edition

  • Expanded online resources, including updated PowerPoint slides, an online instructional video guide for appropriate chapters, online solutions for homework assignments, online exercises, and updated online appendices on MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint
  • New sections on "media literacy" and scientific versus science writing
  • A new discussion of open-access journals and electronic publishing
  • Expanded and updated sections on scientific ethics, basic statistical analysis, plagiarism guides, and peer review and revision of draft papers
  • An updated chapter on job applications
  • New information on Google docs, sheets, and slides
  • Updated examples and exercises throughout, including current hot topics in the scientific field


  • A practical presentation carefully introduces basic writing mechanics before moving into manuscript planning and organizational strategies. Extensive hands-on guidance for composing scientific documents and presentations then follows.
  • Relevant and multidisciplinary examples selected from real research papers and grant proposals by writers ranging from students to Nobel Laureates illustrate clear technical writing and common mistakes that one should avoid.
  • Annotated text passages bring the writing principles and guidelines to life by applying them to real-world, relevant, and multidisciplinary examples.
  • Extensive end-of-chapter exercise sets provide the opportunity to review style and composition principles and encourage readers to apply them to their own writing.
  • Writing guidelines and revision checklists warn scientists against common pitfalls and equip them with the most successful techniques to revise a scientific paper, review article, or grant proposal.
  • The book's clear, easy-to-follow writing style appeals to both native and non-native English speakers; special ESL features also point out difficulties experienced primarily by non-native speakers.
  • Tables and lists of sample sentences and phrases aid in composing different sections of a scientific paper, review article, or grant proposal.
  • Thorough attention to research articles advises readers on composing successful manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed journals from initial drafting to the response to reviewers.
  • Comprehensive coverage of grant writing guides scientists through the entire process of applying for a grant, from the initial letter of inquiry to proposal revision and submission.

About the Author(s)

Angelika H. Hofmann is Instructor for Scientific Writing and Communication at Yale University, where she also heads a successful team of grant writers. Renowned in the world of scientific communication, she is the founder of "SciWri Services," a venture that provides consulting and editing services as well as workshops at universities around the world.


"Scientific Writing and Communication is a comprehensive 'how to' of scientific writing of all types, written for undergraduates through tenure-track faculty in many STEM fields, with real-world examples."--Ken Yasukawa, Beloit College

"Practical examples, exercises, and ease of reading make this a book that should be required of all science majors, and should stay on their bookshelf throughout their academic and professional careers."--Jennifer Nelson, Indiana University Indianapolis

"A good technical writing text such as this one is an invaluable tool for anyone who wants to or needs to improve their writing skills."--Jennifer Pharr, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

"Scientific Writing and Communication is a comprehensive guide to scientific communication, accessible to both novice communicators and graduate students conducting their own research."--Jennifer Nelson, Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis

"Hofmann's Scientific Writing and Communication is the most comprehensive and detailed text available on scientific communication."--Brian K. Schilling, University of Nevada Las Vegas

"Students can use Scientific Writing and Communication at all stages of their career. It is an essential book for any science student."--Melanie J. Lee-Brown, Guilford College

Table of Contents



    Chapter 1. Science and Communication
    1.1 The Scientific Method
    1.2 Science Communication and Ethics
    1.3 About Readers
    1.4 About Writers
    1.5 Different Writing GenresScientific Writing versus Science Writing
    1.6 Mastering Scientific Writing

    Chapter 2. Individual Words
    2.1 The Central Principle
    2.2 Word Choice
    2.3 Word Choice-Special Cases
    2.4 Redundancies and Jargon
    2.5 Abbreviations
    2.6 Nomenclature and Terminology
    2.7 Dictionaries

    Chapter 3. Word Location
    3.1 Readers' Expectations
    3.2 Competition for Emphasis
    3.3 Placement of Words

    Chapter 4. Technical Sentences
    4.1 Grammar and Technical Style
    4.2 Person
    4.3 Voice
    4.4 Tense
    4.5 Sentence Length
    4.6 Verbs and Action
    4.7 Clusters of Nouns
    4.8 Pronouns
    4.9 Lists and Comparisons
    4.10 Faulty Comparisons
    4.11 Common Errors

    Chapter 5. Common ESL Grammar Problems/Concerns
    5.1 Prepositions
    5.2 Articles
    5.3 Verbs
    5.4 Adjectives and Adverbs
    5.5 Nouns and Pronouns
    5.6 Grammar References

    Chapter 6. From Sentences to Paragraphs
    6.1 Paragraph Structure
    6.2 Paragraph Organization
    6.3 Paragraph Coherence
    6.4 Condensing


    Chapter 7. The First Draft

    7.1 The Writing Process
    7.2 Prewriting
    7.3 Authorship
    7.4 Drafting a Manuscript
    7.5 Outlining and Composing a Manuscript
    7.6 Writer's Block?
    7.7 For ESL Authors
    7.8 Outside Help

    Chapter 8. References and Plagiarism
    8.1 About References
    8.2 Source Material
    8.3 Managing References
    8.4 Text Citations
    8.5 Plagiarism
    8.6 Paraphrasing
    8.7 References within a Scientific Paper
    8.8 The Reference List
    8.9 Common Reference Styles
    8.10 Citing the Internet
    8.11 Footnotes and Endnotes 165
    8.12 Acknowledgments 166

    Chapter 9. Figures and Tables
    9.1 General Guidelines
    9.2 Importance of Formatting and Placement of Information
    9.3 Figure or Table?
    9.4 General Information on Figures
    9.5 Types of Figures
    9.6 Formatting Graphs
    9.7 Examples of Graphs
    9.8 Figure Legends
    9.9 General Information on Tables
    9.10 Formatting Tables
    9.11 Formulas, Equations, Proofs, and Algorithms

    Chapter 10. Basics of Statistical Analysis
    10.1 General Guidelines
    10.2 Basic Statistical Terminology
    10.3 Distribution Curves
    10.4 Statistical Analysis of Data
    10.5 Reporting Statistics
    10.6 Graphical Representation
    10.7 Useful Resources for Statistical Analysis
    10.8 Checklist


    A. Research Papers

    Chapter 11. The Introduction
    11.1 Overall
    11.2 Components and Format
    11.3 Elements of the Introduction
    11.4 Special Case: Introductions for Descriptive Papers
    11.5 Important Writing Guidelines for the Introduction
    11.6 Signals for the Reader
    11.7 Common Problems of Introductions
    11.8 Sample Introductions
    11.9 Revising the Introduction

    Chapter 12. Materials and Methods
    12.1 Overall
    12.2 Components
    12.3 Format
    12.4 Important Writing Guidelines for Materials and Methods
    12.5 Ethical Conduct
    12.6 Common Problems of Materials and Methods Section
    12.7 Sample Materials and Methods Sections
    12.8 Revising the Materials and Methods Section

    Chapter 13. Results
    13.1 Overall
    13.2 Components
    13.3 Format
    13.4 Important Writing Guidelines for the Results
    13.5 Signals for the Reader
    13.6 Common Problems of the Results Section
    13.7 Sample Results Sections
    13.8 Revising the Results Section

    Chapter 14. Discussion
    14.1 Overall
    14.2 Components
    14.3 Format
    14.4 First Paragraph
    14.5 Middle Paragraphs
    14.6 Last Paragraph
    14.7 Important Writing Guidelines for the Discussion
    14.8 Signals for the Reader
    14.9 An Alternative: Results and Discussion
    14.10 Common Problems of the Discussion
    14.11 Sample Discussions
    14.12 Revising the Discussion

    Chapter 15. Abstract
    15.1 Overall
    15.2 Components
    15.3 Format
    15.4 Applying Basic Writing Rules
    15.5 Signals for the Reader
    15.6 Common Problems of the Abstract
    15.7 Reasons for Rejection
    15.8 Revising the Abstract

    Chapter 16. Titles, Title Pages, and Key Words, Footnotes, and Acknowledgements
    16.1 Overall
    16.2 Strong Titles
    16.3 The Title Page
    16.4 Running Title
    16.5 Key Words
    16.6 Footnotes and Endnotes
    16.7 Acknowledgments
    16.86 Revising the Title Checklist

    Chapter 17. Revising and Reviewing a Manuscript
    17.1 Revising the First Draft
    17.2 Subsequent Drafts
    17.3 Reviewing a Manuscript Pre-Submission

    Chapter 18. Final Version, Submission, and Peer Review
    18.1 General Advice on the Final Version
    18.2 Submitting the Manuscript
    18.3 Writing a Cover Letter
    18.4 The Review Process
    18.5 Informal Peer Reviewing Someone Else's Manuscript
    18.6 Formal Peer Review
    18.76 Checklist for Peer Reviewing Someone Else's Manuscript
    18.87 Letter from the Editor
    18.986 Resubmission
    18.1097 Paper Accepted

    B. Review Articles

    Chapter 19. Review Articles
    19.1 Overall
    19.2 Types of Reviews and General Content
    19.3 Format
    19.4 Title
    19.5 Abstract of a Review Article
    19.6 Introduction of a Review Article
    19.7 Main Analysis Section of a Review Article
    19.8 Conclusion of a Review Article
    19.9 References
    19.10 Signals for the Reader
    19.11 Coherence
    19.12 Common Problems of Review Articles
    19.13 Revising the Review Article


    Chapter 20. Proposal Writing

    20.1 General
    20.2 Types of Proposals
    20.3 Choosing a Sponsoring Agency
    20.4 Federal Agencies
    20.5 Private Foundations
    20.6 Corporations and Other Funders
    20.7 Preliminary Steps to Writing a Proposal
    20.8 Online Resources
    20.9 Starting to Write a Grant
    20.10 Interacting with the Funder

    Chapter 21. Letters of Inquiry and Preproposals
    21.1 General
    21.2 Components and Format
    21.3 Abstract/Overview
    21.4 Introduction/Background
    21.5 Statement of Need
    21.6 Objective and Specific Aims
    21.7 Strategy and Goals
    21.8 Leadership and Organization
    21.9 Budget
    21.10 Impact and Significance
    21.11 Cover Letter
    21.12 Verbal Proposals
    21.13 LOI Outlines
    21.14 Revising an LOI/Preproposal

    Chapter 22. Proposal Abstracts and Specific Aims
    22.1 Overall
    22.2 Proposal Abstracts
    22.3 Specific Aims
    22.4 Significance and Impact
    22.5 Applying Basic Writing Rules
    22.6 Signals for the Reader
    22.7 Common Problems
    22.8 Reasons for Rejection
    22.9 Revising the Abstract and Specific Aims

    Chapter 23. Background and Significance
    23.1 Overall
    23.2 Emphasis, Format, and Length
    23.3 References
    23.4 Elements of the Section
    23.5 Sample Significance Section for Federal Grants
    23.6 Signals for the Reader
    23.7 Coherence
    23.8 Common Problems
    23.9 Revising the Background and Significance Section

    Chapter 24. Innovation
    24.1 General Remarks on Proposal Sections
    24.2 Components
    24.3 Format
    24.4 Signals for the Reader
    24.5 Common Problems
    24.6 Revising the Innovation Section

    Chapter 25. Preliminary Results
    25.1 Function
    25.2 Content
    25.3 Format
    25.4 Important Writing Rules
    25.5 Signals for Preliminary Results
    25.6 Common Problems of Preliminary Results
    25.7 Revising the Preliminary Results

    Chapter 26. Approach/Research Design
    26.1 Overall
    26.2 Components
    26.3 Format
    26.4 Closing Paragraph
    26.5 Signals for the Reader
    26.6 Common Problems
    26.7 Revising the Research Design and Methods Section

    Chapter 27. Budget and Other Special Proposal Sections
    27.1 Budget
    27.2 Other Special Proposal Sections

    Chapter 28. Revision and Submission of a Proposal
    28.1 General
    28.2 Before Sending Out the Proposal
    28.3 Revising the Proposal
    28.4 Submitting the Proposal
    28.5 Being Reviewed
    28.6 Site Visits
    28.7 Reasons for Rejection
    28.8 If Your Proposal Is Rejected
    28.9 Resubmission of a Proposal
    28.10 If Your Proposal Is Funded


    Chapter 29. Posters and Conference Abstracts

    29.1 Function and General Overview
    29.2 Conference Abstracts
    29.3 Poster Components
    29.4 Poster Format
    29.5 Sections of a Poster
    29.6 Photos, Figures, and Tables for Posters
    29.7 Resources for Preparing and Presenting a Poster
    29.8 Revising a Poster
    29.9 Presenting a Poster
    29.10 Sample Posters
    29.11 Checklist for a Poster

    Chapter 30. Oral Presentations
    30.1 Before the Talk
    30.2 Components and Format of a Scientific Talk
    30.3 Visual Aids
    30.4 Planning and Preparing for a Talk
    30.5 Giving the Talk
    30.6 Voice and Delivery
    30.7 Vocabulary and Style
    30.8 Body Actions and Motions
    30.9 At the End of the Presentation
    30.10 Questions and Answers
    30.11 Other Speech Forms
    30.12 Resources
    30.13 Checklist for an Oral Presentation


    Chapter 31. Job Applications and Interviews

    31.1 Overall
    31.2 Curricula Vitae (CVs) and Résumés
    31.3 Cover Letters
    31.4 Accompanying Documents
    31.5 Research Statements
    31.6 Teaching Statements
    31.7 The Hiring Process and Interview Questions
    31.8 Resources
    31.9 Letters of Recommendation
    31.10 Checklist for the Job Application

    Appendix A: Commonly Confused and Misused Words
    Appendix B: MS Word Basics and Top 20 MS Word Tips
    Appendix C: Excel Basics and Top 20 Excel Tips
    Appendix D: PowerPoint Basics and Top 20 PowerPoint Tips
    Appendix E: MS Office Cheat Sheet
    Answer Key
    Glossary of English Grammar Terms
    Brief Glossary of Scientific and Technical Terms
    Credits and References