Book Review: “Scientific Paper Writing – A Survival Guide” by Bodil Holst

This is a book review on “Scientific Paper Writing – A Survival Guide”  written by Bodil Holst and published on 30.12.2015 on the CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Another advice book on paper writing?

But wait, this one looks vaguely familiar. The new book written by Bodil Holst, a bookprofessor of physics at the University of Bergen (Norway), grabs your attention with cover art by none other than Jorge Cham, the creator of PhD comics. Throughout the book, many comics of the popular web series are reproduced to accompany the explanations on the scientific publishing process. This process, sometimes viewed as a black box by academic newcomers, is the main focus of the book. The self-proclaimed aim of Bodil Holst is levelling the playing field for young scientists by transparently laying out the conditions that must be met for getting your work published.

The content

The book describes how to structure a paper, how to pick a journal and how to get through the refereeing process. In the true sense of a survival guide, it touches on pretty much every issue around writing and publishing. It concisely describes general expectations and lays out strategies to achieve maximum success, which is defined as getting papers accepted, read, and, ultimately, cited by colleagues. This goal-focused approach, depicting the publish-or-perish side of academia rather frankly, might make those readers a tad uncomfortable which are either slightly naïve or completely idealistic about science. But one must argue, as long as we do business this way, being transparent about it might be the best vaccine for disillusionment at a later career stage. Similarly useful for managing one’s expectations about the publishing process, is the recurring reminder that it is a system that was built and is run by humans, and therefore, is occasionally flawed.

So is it recommendable?

The advice for planning and writing your paper uses tangible examples and explains the rationale behind each piece of advice. Anecdotes from the author’s career and PhD comics chosen to match each section make the book a very entertaining read. Especially for young scientists, who have not yet been directly involved in publishing a manuscript, it is highly recommended.

Author: Christin Büchner, Copyright: CC-BY

Disclaimer: Through a scientific collaboration, I met the author, Bodil Holst, and she gifted me a copy of her book. The decision to write this book review, as well as all opinions expressed in it, are my own.