I’m excited: the second edition of The Scientist’s Guide to Writing is now available for pre-order!
I’ve been working on this second edition for a year and a half now. While you can’t have it on your shelf just yet (it’s slated for publication January 11, 2022), you could in principle order a copy today.* For anyone who just can’t wait, here it is directly from the Princeton University Press, and here it is on Amazon (that’s the US link; here’s the Canadian one, and the UK one).
What’s in the second edition, and why might you be as excited as me? Well, OK, I can pretty much guarantee you aren’t as excited as me. But I think folks will find that the new edition has some worthwhile additions. Quite a few of them, actually, but here are some highlights:
- A new chapter, “Journals and Preprints”, provides advice on how to choose a journal to which to submit a paper. It considers things like journal scope, reputation (and how to judge it), speed, cost, publisher profit model, and access. It also covers preprint servers – a rather shocking omission from the 1st edition, I’d have to admit.
- Another new chapter, “Three Kinds of Reading: Reference, Survey, and Deep”, expands on reading. We all need techniques for efficient and effective reading, because we’re all drowning in the literature. This chapter outlines ways to read to extract particular bits of information (reference reading), to assess a paper for possible closer attention (survey reading), or to thoroughly understand a paper (deep reading).
- The chapter on “Writing for Speakers of English as an Additional Language” is expanded. This is an important chapter, because globally, most scientists aren’t native speakers of English – but nearly all publish in English. I’ve updated and expanded this chapter to give EAL speakers the best guidance I can. And importantly – native English speakers should be thinking about this guidance too, because all of us will mentor or collaborate with EAL speakers!
- I’ve almost doubled the Exercises following the chapters. I’ve been surprised how valuable people find these – but I guess I shouldn’t be, or at least not any more, as I use them in my own Scientific Writing course and they work really well there.
- The advice on writing Abstracts and titles is greatly expanded. I include coverage of recent literature on how features of titles may influence citation rates – a fascinating literature that’s (to me) quite counterintuitive.
- I provide better guidance on how to frame discussion of study limitations. I’ve learned that many students need help in presenting limitations without rhyming off every possible thing that might have gone wrong, and thus leaving a reader convinced the study is worthless. It’s important to be transparent about limitations – but it’s also important to show how conclusions can be drawn despite those limitations.
- I offer new advice about handling disagreement among reviewers, as well as the situation where an early-career writer disagrees with suggestions from a supervisor or mentor. We’ve all been there; and such disagreements can be either frustrating or very productive, depending on your approach to them.
- I’ve greatly improved coverage of science communication (writing for the general public). It’s not at all the same thing as writing for our literature; and while we won’t all indulge in SciComm, it’s crucially important that some of us do, and do it well.
- A new cover that doesn’t feature the unusual Z-structure for DNA. OK, this really doesn’t matter to most folks. But there’s a non-trivial number of people knowledgeable enough to notice the left-handed helix, but not knowledgeable enough to know that the Z-structure exists and is biologically fascinating. I will admit to having tired of such people.
Intrigued yet? I hope you are. While I’m proud of the 1st edition and stand behind everything in it, I’m sure you’ll find the 2nd edition is better.
Now excuse me while I spend the next six months fidgeting furiously with impatience, waiting for publication day. Maybe this isn’t really the hardest part of writing a book – but sometimes it feels that way.
© Stephen Heard July 28, 2021
*^The “in principle” is because to be honest, I really don’t know why you would order a copy today, six months in advance of publication. Now, pre-orders are very important for trade books (those aimed at the general public), with pre-order data feeding bookstore placements, publisher investment in promotion, and the like. These things are less important with a more technical book like The Scientist’s Guide to Writing, and so I’m not going to wheedle, beg, or plead with you to order in advance. You can wait! In the meantime, though, why not pick up a copy of Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider? It’s a bargain these days, and I think it’s worth reading.