A Field Guide for Science Writers

Front Cover
Deborah Blum, Mary Knudson
Oxford University Press, 1998 - Science - 287 pages
"Science writing offers some wonderful adventures," notes Patrick Young, a former editor of Science News. "I've visited the South pole, stared into a steaming volcano, covered the first human landing on the moon, and dived with an underwater archaeology team investigating an old fur trade route." But as Young readily admits, science writing is, above all, an adventure of the mind. It is in fact probably the most fascinating beat in journalism, spanning everything from new advances in cancer treatment and the depletion of the ozone layer, to dinosaurs, black holes in space, human evolution, animal behavior, and much more besides. What science writers ultimately cover--and convey to the reading public--is the forefront of human knowledge, the leading edge of our understanding of the universe and of ourselves.
Now, in A Field Guide for Science Writers, the official guide of the National Association of Science Writers, budding journalists and veteran reporters have a superb roadmap to this exciting area of journalism. Here some three dozen of the best known science writers in America share their hard-earned knowledge on how they do their job. Boyce Rensberger describes how he covers stories for the Washington Post; two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner and New York Times reporter John Noble Wilford outlines the pitfalls and rewards of writing full-length books on scientific topics; NPR's Ira Flatow tells how radio pieces combine ambient sounds, music, voices, and facts to create a mental picture and evoke the feeling of "being there"; and Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Laurie Garrett, author of the best-selling The Coming Plague, discusses how to cover, and survive, a deadly epidemic. Each article brims with detailed, nuts-and-bolts information. For instance, Mary Knudson prints a section of a piece she has published, and then explains point by point how she researched every detail. Victor Cohn provides six tests to help reporters discern between probable facts and probable trash. And Sandra Blakeslee, a freelance writer who reports regularly for the New York Times, discusses covering the field of neuroscience: what you should know, which books give you a good background knowledge, which courses might help, which meetings to attend, which journals to read. In addition, readers will learn how newspaper writing differs from magazine stories, books, and science journals; how to tell a good story, use sources, do investigative reporting, write a solid but interesting op-ed piece or science column; how to translate a highly technical journal article; how to pitch ideas to magazine editors; and how to find ideas. Finally, a superb appendix offers a goldmine of resources for science writers, including both general sources of information as well as sources in fields such as anthropology, earth sciences, the environment, health and medicine, and technology.
A Field Guide for Science Writers gathers together insights and tips, personal stories and lessons of some of America's best-known science writers, men and women who work for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, Newsday, Time Magazine, Science, Science News, National Public Radio, and other eminent news outlets. Filled with wonderful anecdotes and down-to-earth, practical information, it is both illuminating and a pleasure to read. If you want to be a science writer, this book will be your bible.

What people are saying - Write a review

A field guide for science writers: the official guide of the National Association of Science Writers

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

This is not a "field guide" in the sense of a reference or guidebook but a report from the field by more than 30 expert science writers from all disciplines. Each writes about his or her own area of ... Read full review


Introduction David Perlman
Writing Science for Magazines Janice Hopkins Tanm
Writing Books on Science Topics John Nobl e Wilford43
Scientists Who Write about Science for the Public
Investigative Science Journalism Deborah Blum
Using Sources Joel Gnenberg
Coping with Statistics Victor Cohn
Reporting on Neuroscience Sandra Blakeslee
Environmental Writing Jim Detjen
Covering Earth Sciences Charles Petit
Covering Physics Kim A McDonald
Writing About Astronomy Michael D Lemonick 1
Technology Writing Jon Van
Introduction Carol L Rogers
Government Agencies RickE Borchelt

Writing Articles from Science Journals Patrick Young
Introduction MikeToner
Reporting on Biology of Behavior Ronald Kotulak
Covering Infectious Diseases Laurie Garrett
Business and Industry
Sources of Information
Epilogue Victor K McElheny

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1998)

Deborah Blum is a professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She won the 1992 Pulitzer prize in Beat Reporting for a series of articles on primate research and has also written a book on the subject, The Monkey Wars.
Mary Knudson is a freelance writer. She covered medicine for eighteen years with the Baltimore Sun. She also teaches a science-writing workshop at Johns Hopkins University.

Bibliographic information