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Scientific Writing and Communication

Papers, Proposals, and Presentations

Second Edition

Angelika Hofmann

Publication Date - December 2013

ISBN: 9780199947560

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

Retail Price to Students: $44.95

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


Scientific Writing and Communication: Papers, Proposals, and Presentations, Second Edition, covers all the areas of scientific communication that a scientist needs to know and to master in order to successfully promote his or her research and career. This unique "all-in-one" handbook begins with a discussion of the basics of scientific writing style and composition and then applies these principles to writing research papers, review articles, grant proposals, research statements, and résumés and to preparing academic presentations and posters. It is ideal for a wide range of readers--from upper-level undergraduates and graduate students to postdoctoral fellows, faculty, and professional researchers in the life sciences, medicine, psychology, chemistry, physics, and engineering.


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.

New to this Edition

  • Revisions and updates throughout, including an expanded treatment of figures and tables, the addition of basic statistics (Ch. 9), and more in-depth coverage of federal grants (Ch. 22, a new Ch. 23, and Ch. 27), talks, posters and conference abstracts (Chs. 28 and 29), and job applications (Ch. 30)
  • More interdisciplinary examples drawn from a broad range of fields including medicine, molecular biology, biochemistry, ecology, geology, chemistry, physics, and engineering
  • New "Top 20 Tips" appendices on Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint

About the Author(s)

Angelika H. Hofmann is Instructor for Scientific Writing and Communication at Yale University. Renowned in the world of scientific writing, she is the founder of "Bioscience-Writing," a venture that provides editing services and workshops at universities around the world.

Previous Publication Date(s)

December 2009


"The definitive work in communication for all scientific fields."--Leanna C. Giancarlo, University of Mary Washington

"This book is richly detailed, its content is carefully and clearly explained in language that students can understand, and the exercises it contains are incredibly helpful and challenging."--Daun Daemon, North Carolina State University

Table of Contents

    Chapter 1. Prelude
    1.1 Importance of Writing in Science
    1.2 About Readers
    1.3 About Writers
    1.4 About This Book
    1.5 Design of This Book
    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 Noun Clusters
    4.8 Pronouns
    4.9 Lists and Comparisons
    4.10 Faulty Comparisons
    4.11 Common Errors
    Chapter 5. Special ESL Grammar Problems
    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 Selecting References
    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
    8.12 Acknowledgments
    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 Basics of Statistical Analysis
    * 9.12 Useful Resources for Statistical Analysis
    9.13 Other Kinds of Supplementary Information: Formulas, Equations, Proofs, and Algorithms
    PART III. MANUSCRIPTS: Research Papers and Review Articles
    A. Research Papers
    Chapter 10. The Introduction
    10.1 Overall
    10.2 Content and Organization
    10.3 Elements of the Introduction
    10.4 Special Case: Introductions for Descriptive Papers
    10.5 Important Writing Principles for the Introduction
    10.6 Signals for the Reader
    10.7 Common Problems of Introductions
    10.8 Sample Introductions
    10.9 Revising the Introduction
    Chapter 11. Materials and Methods Section
    11.1 Overall
    11.2 Content
    11.3 Organization
    11.4 Important Writing Principles for Materials and Methods
    11.5 Ethical Conduct
    11.6 Common Problems of Materials and Methods Section
    11.7 Sample Materials and Methods Sections
    11.8 Revising the Materials and Methods Section
    Chapter 12. Results
    12.1 Overall
    12.2 Content
    12.3 Organization
    12.4 Important Writing Principles for the Results
    12.5 Signals for the Reader
    12.6 Common Problems of the Results Section
    12.7 Sample Results Sections
    12.8 Revising the Results Section
    Chapter 13. Discussion
    13.1 Overall
    13.2 Content
    13.3 Organization
    13.4 First Paragraph
    13.5 Middle Paragraphs
    13.6 Last Paragraph
    13.7 Important Writing Principles for the Discussion
    13.8 Signals for the Reader
    13.9 An Alternative: Results and Discussion
    13.10 Common Problems of the Discussion
    13.11 Sample Discussions
    13.12 Revising the Discussion
    Chapter 14. Abstract
    14.1 Overall
    14.2 Content
    14.3 Organization
    14.4 Applying Basic Writing Principles
    14.5 Signals for the Reader
    14.6 Common Problems of the Abstract
    14.7 Reasons for Rejection
    14.8 Revising the Abstract
    Chapter 15. Titles, Title Pages, and Key Words
    15.1 Overall
    15.2 Strong Titles
    15.3 The Title Page
    15.4 Running Title
    15.5 Key Words
    15.6 Revising the Title
    Chapter 16. Revising and Reviewing a Manuscript
    16.1 Revising the First Draft
    16.2 Subsequent Drafts
    16.3 Reviewing a Manuscript
    Chapter 17. Final Version, Submission, and Peer Review
    17.1 General Advice on the Final Version
    17.2 Submitting the Manuscript
    17.3 Writing a Cover Letter
    17.4 The Review Process
    17.5 Letter from the Editor
    17.6 Resubmission
    17.7 Paper Accepted
    B. Review Articles
    Chapter 18. Review Articles
    18.1 Overall
    18.2 Content
    18.3 Organization
    18.4 Abstract of a Review Article
    18.5 Introduction of a Review Article
    18.6 Main Analysis Section of a Review Article
    18.7 Conclusion of a Review Article
    18.8 References
    18.9 Signals for the Reader
    18.10 Coherence
    18.11 Common Problems of Review Articles
    18.12 Revising the Review Article
    Chapter 19. Proposal Writing
    19.1 General
    19.2 Types of Proposals
    19.3 Choosing a Sponsoring Agency
    19.4 Federal Agencies
    19.5 Private Foundations
    19.6 Corporations and Other Funders
    19.7 Preliminary Steps to Writing a Proposal
    19.8 Online Resources
    19.9 Starting to Write a Grant
    19.10 Interacting With the Funder
    Chapter 20. Letters of Inquiry and Preproposals
    20.1 General
    20.2 Content and Organization
    20.3 Abstract/Overview
    20.4 Introduction/Background
    20.5 Statement of Need
    20.6 Objective and Specific Aims
    20.7 Strategy and Goals
    20.8 Leadership and Organization
    20.9 Budget
    20.10 Impact and Significance
    20.11 Cover Letter
    20.12 Verbal Proposals
    20.13 LOI Outlines
    20.14 Revising an LOI/Preproposal
    Chapter 21. Abstract and Specific Aims
    21.1 Overall
    21.2 Abstract
    21.3 Specific Aims
    21.4 Significance and Impact
    21.5 Applying Basic Writing Principles
    21.6 Signals for the Reader
    21.7 Common Problems
    21.8 Reasons for Rejection
    21.9 Revising the Abstract and Specific Aims
    Chapter 22. Background and Significance
    22.1 Overall
    22.2 Emphasis, Organization, and Length
    22.3 References
    22.4 Elements of the Section
    * 22.5 Sample Significance Section for Federal Grants
    22.6 Signals for the Reader
    22.7 Coherence
    22.8 Common Problems
    22.9 Revising the Background and Significance Section
    * Chapter 23. Innovation
    23.1 Content
    23.2 Organization
    23.3 Signals for the Reader
    23.4 Common Problems
    23.5 Revising the Innovation Section
    Chapter 24. Preliminary Results
    24.1 General Content
    24.2 Organization
    24.3 Important Writing Principles
    24.4 Signals for Preliminary Results
    24.5 Common Problems of Preliminary Results
    24.6 Revising the Preliminary Results
    Chapter 25. Approach/Research Design
    25.1 Overall
    25.2 Content
    25.3 Organization
    25.4 Closing Paragraph
    25.5 Signals for the Reader
    25.6 Common Problems
    25.7 Revising the Research Design and Methods Section
    Chapter 26. Budget and Other Special Proposal Sections
    26.1 Budget
    26.2 Other Special Proposal Sections
    Chapter 27. Revising and Submitting a Proposal
    27.1 General
    27.2 Before Sending Out the Proposal
    27.3 Revising the Proposal
    27.4 Submitting the Proposal
    27.5 Being Reviewed
    27.6 Site Visits
    *27.7 Reasons for Rejection
    27.8 If Your Proposal Is Rejected
    27.9 Resubmission of a Proposal
    27.10 If Your Proposal Is Funded
    Chapter 28. Posters and Conference Abstracts
    28.1 Function and General Overview
    28.2 Content
    28.3 Organization
    28.4 Sections of a Poster
    28.5 Photos, Figures, and Tables
    28.6 Resources for Preparing and Presenting a Poster
    *28.7 Revising a Poster
    28.8 Presenting the Poster
    28.9 Sample Posters
    28.10 Checklist for a Poster
    28.11 Conference Abstracts
    Chapter 29. Oral Presentations
    29.1 Before the Talk
    29.2 Content and Organization of a Scientific Talk
    29.3 Visual Aids
    29.4 Preparing for a Talk
    29.5 Giving the Talk
    29.6 Voice and Delivery
    29.7 Vocabulary and Style
    29.8 Body Actions and Motions
    29.9 At the End of the Presentation
    29.10 Questions and Answers
    29.11 Other Speech Forms
    *29.12 Resources
    29.13 Checklist for an Oral Presentation
    Chapter 30. Writing for Job Applications
    30.1 Overall
    30.2 Curricula Vitae (CVs) and Résumés
    30.3 Cover Letters
    30.4 Accompanying Documents
    30.5 Research Statements
    30.6 Teaching Statements
    30.7 Resources
    30.8 Letters of Recommendation
    30.9 Checklist for the Job Application
    Appendix A: Commonly Confused and Misused Words
    * Appendix B: Tips on MS Word
    * Appendix C: Tips on MS Excel
    * Appendix D: Tips on MS PowerPoint
    * Appendix E: MS Office Cheat Sheet
    Answer Key