A Concise Guide to Communication in Science and Engineering

ISBN : 9780198704249

David H. Foster
400 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Jul 2017


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  • Comprehensive coverage, concise presentation, and practical checklists
  • Advice and usage distilled from multiple sources
  • Over 400 examples from published research articles
  • Developed from taught courses in the UK and abroad
  • Written by an active university researcher, editor, and reviewer

Success in scientific and engineering research depends on effective writing and presentation. The purpose of this guide is to help the reader achieve that goal. It enables students and researchers to write and present material to a professional modern standard, efficiently and painlessly, and with maximum impact.
The approach is not prescriptive. Rather, the emphasis is on a logical approach to communication, informed by what needs to be achieved, what works in practice, and what interferes with success. Over 400 examples of good and bad writing and graphing are presented. Each is from a published research article and is accompanied by analysis, comment, and correction where needed. Journal reviewers' critiques of submitted manuscripts are included to illustrate common pitfalls. Above all, this is a "how-to" book, comprehensive but concise, suitable for continuous study or quick reference. Checklists at the end of each chapter enable the reader to test the readiness of a dissertation, journal submission, or conference presentation for assessment or review. Although oriented towards engineering and the physical and life sciences, it is also relevant to other areas, including behavioural and clinical sciences and medicine.


1: Introduction
2: General Principles
3: Research Articles
4: Literature Reviews, Technical Reports, Dissertations, and Theses
5: Use of English
6: Use of Mathematics
7: Data Description and Statistical Inference
8: Graphing Data
9: Publication and Promotion
10: Posters
11: Lectures and Talks
12: Ethical Issues
13: Final Thoughts

About the author: 

David H. Foster, Director of Research and Professor of Vision Systems, University of Manchester, UK
David H. Foster is Professor of Vision Systems at the University of Manchester and Director of Research in the School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering. He began his academic career as a lecturer in physics at Imperial College London and went on to hold personal chairs at several UK universities. He has served as journal editor or editor in chief for over thirty years and has taught communication in science and engineering at undergraduate, postgraduate, and postdoctoral levels in the UK and elsewhere. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, and the Optical Society of America.

"This book is a great asset for any PhD student or a fresh researcher in one of the STEM disciplines, and there should be a book like this on the (virtual) shelf of the library." - Adhemar Bultheel, European Mathematical Society Book Reviews

"Provides helpful advice to scientists and engineers in both oral and written communication of their research in a single, concise volume. [An] indispensable guide." - Miriam R. Aczel, Contemporary Physics

"I used to teach a course on scientific writing: oh how I wish David Foster's wonderful text, A Concise Guide to Communication in Science and Engineering had been available then. However, the book goes well beyond just writing, providing sage advice, replete with examples, on graphing, statistical inference, publication and giving lectures and talks. This is the ultimate users' manual for scientific communication, from soup to nuts! As a highly experienced author, reviewer and editor, Foster provides important insights into navigating the confusing (and rapidly changing) world of scientific publication: how to choose the right journal, what to expect of the peer review system and even how to promote your article. The book includes a thoughtful and comprehensive chapter on "Ethical Issues" which includes sections on "Authorship" and "Salami Slicing". This amazing book should be mandatory reading for graduate students and post-docs." - Dennis M. Levi, UC Berkeley

"Communication in everyday life refers to sharing thoughts by means of language. This process naturally leads to ambiguities of interpretation, which are usually resolved by a dialog between the speaker and the listener. Communication in science and engineering by means of publications and presentations is much more difficult because it takes place on a one-way road: the author is rarely available to answer the reader's questions. The author of a publication is forced to anticipate all questions and resolve all ambiguities before they arise. This guide teaches us how to do this, and how to do this very well. Native English authors will surely benefit from Foster's lectures, and authors, whose native language is not English, will benefit even more." - Zygmunt Pizlo, University of California, Irvine

"An 'Elements of Style' for scientists at all levels. Essential reading and reference material that will not only improve writing but also sharpen thinking." - Jonathan D. Victor, Cornell University, USA.

"This is an amazing book for all of us who want to present scientific research clearly and efficiently. Real examples and thoughtful advice make the text a practical tool for everyday science. Read it and add value to your research!" - Sergio Miguel Nascimento, University of Minho, Portugal

"The ideal resource for any PhD student about to write their thesis, the 'Concise Guide' gives detailed specific guidance for scientific writing and just as importantly great advice on how to tackle this daunting task. An essential reference for native English speakers and for those trying to write like one." - Lewis Griffin, University College London, UK

"Foster's textbook on communication in science & technology is a comprehensive guide that will be of use to anyone who is involved in technical communication from junior PhD students to the most senior of professors. It covers all aspects of technical communication including theses, journal papers, books, and presentations. Although it covers the theoretical and technical aspects of communication, I am most impressed by the use of hundreds of examples of imperfect communication, taken from real papers and theses, along with improved versions of many of them. I am recommending this book to all of my doctoral students and postdocs and I anticipate a huge time saving. This is an incredibly valuable resource that I expect to consult on a regular basis." - Stephen Westland, University of Leeds, UK

"In an age of information overload, this guide provides a Strunk and White for clarity in scientific reporting, a veritable vade mecum that should be required reading for students and colleagues, alike." - Kenneth Knoblauch, Stem-cell and Brain Research Institute, France

"This is the book I needed right next to my desk when I first set out to publish, and would still be using today. Full of practical advice, thoroughly structured, and lightened by occasional asides, for example, on rejection: 'Complaining to the editor [...] is unlikely to lead to a different decision'. An excellent read." - Hans Strasburger, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany

"Foster's A Concise Guide to Communication will definitely help anyone actively involved in scientific research to write and present more clearly and effectively. The many examples of bad and good writing and graphing, taken from real papers and theses, not only illustrate how and where communication can fail but also clearly explain why it fails and how to improve the structure, logic, and clarity of the exposition." - Alexander Toet, Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO)

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