10 January 2013

Review: Writing in the Biological Sciences

I was sent a copy of Angelika Hoffmann’s new book, Writing in the Biological Sciences, by the publisher, unbidden. It’s been long enough that I initially forgot I wrote almost the same thing a couple of years ago, almost to the day, when I got a book called Scientific Writing and Communication, by the same author. I reviewed that here.

I had forgotten the previous book when I first opened this one. So, as I often do, I looked for a whether there was chapter on posters – there was. I got about four lines in before I started arguing with the author in my head. And looking back at my review of the previous book, it’s the same point: putting abstracts on posters. And I don’t understand why she says that posters don’t have Discussion sections....

Based on the poster chapter, and the comparative thicknesses of the two books, Writing in the Biological Sciences seems to be a cut down and slightly revised version of Scientific Writing and Communication. The poster chapter is short, just 12 pages out of a 290 page book, which is shorter than the 16 devoted to posters in Scientific Writing and Communication. The artwork is black and white, and a few of the graphics have changed. The sample layout is not the same one I showed in my earlier review.

There is a “Useful resources” section with four links, with horrible long URLs, that were checked in... October 2011. Given that when I reviewed the previous book, many of the links were dead, so I checked again. After over a year of lead time, guess what? The first link is to Colin Purrington’s now-dead site at Swathmore College (but a new version is here). I’ve typed the links to the other three so you don’t have to:

Everything in my review of Scientific Writing and Communication, I will stand by for Writing in the Biological Sciences. There have been some changes, but no substantial improvements.


Hofmann, AH. 2013. Writing in the Biological Sciences. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 290 pages.

Related posts

Review: Scientific Writing and Communication
Review: A Short Guide to Writing About Biology (Seventh Edition)
Review: Scientist’s Guide to Poster Presentations

External links

Book website

Companion site to book (not active as of 8 January 2013)

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