Doing Science: Design, Analysis, and Communication of Scientific Research

Doing Science: Design, Analysis, and Communication of Scientific Research

Doing Science: Design, Analysis, and Communication of Scientific Research

Doing Science: Design, Analysis, and Communication of Scientific Research

Synopsis

Doing Science offers a rare compendium of practical advice based on how working scientists practice their craft. It covers each stage of research, from formulating questions and gathering data to developing experiments and analyzing results and finally to the many ways for presenting results. Drawing on his extensive experience both as a researcher and a research mentor, Ivan Valiela has written a lively and concise survey of everything a beginning scientist needs to know to succeed in the field. He includes chapters on scientific data, statistical methods, and experimental designs, and much of the book is devoted to presenting final results. He gives valuable suggestions for improving scientific writing, for preparing scientific talks, and devotes three chapters to hands-on advice for presenting data in charts, tables, and graphs. Anyone beginning a scientific career, or anyone who advises students in research, will find Doing Science an invaluable source of advice.

Excerpt

For one or another reason, I have had the opportunity to get students and others started in doing science for over two score years. Since I began to hear myself repeating things, it seemed appropriate to write down some notes about how science work gets done. As is usually the case, the text has mushroomed far beyond my initial notes. The additions have in many cases been shamelessly borrowed from many friends, colleagues, and written sources. I have largely refrained from larding the text with the many references from which I garnered material. Instead, as an incomplete but compact way to acknowledge sources, I have in the main added selected references at the end of each chapter. These references acknowledge my sources and are also a way to lead the reader further into various areas of a given topic.

At first reading, the contents of this book might seem an odd assortment. I have put the various topics together for a rather simple reason: the material covers the essentials of what practicing scientists need to know about (1) asking, (2) testing, and (3) communicating results about a scientific question, above and beyond the knowledge they might need about specific fields of study. Others have written well about items 1 and 2, and still others have nicely addressed item 3. I have tried to show that these are not separate topics: we can do the best science in the world, but if we fail to communicate results in an effective way, we have accomplished little. Likewise, if we communicate our results effectively, but if our results aren't based on sound science, we have accomplished little.

This book is intended to be an introduction to concepts needed in the different parts of the process of doing science. The intended audience is anyone who has to deal with scientific facts or writing, from high school students to graduate students, researchers, clinicians, regulators, administrators, and many others. My objective was to include topics likely to stimulate clarity in the asking of scientific questions, the design of ways to answer the questions, the methods to evaluate the results, and the communication of the information. Many of the topics deal with issues that “everyone knows, ” or at least has heard about. My experience is that many essential concepts that “everyone knows, ” such as replication, accuracy, and controls, are seldom understood sufficiently well, and hence I devote considerable space to definition and examples of these . . .

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