Science Writing Books

"...scientific understanding is inseparable from the written and spoken word. There are no boundaries, no walls, between the doing of science and the communication of it; communicating is the doing of science."
          --Scott L. Montgomery, The Chicago Guide to Communicating Science

Below you will find an annotated bibliography of some important books on science writing


Montgomery, Scott L. The Chicago Guide to Communicating Science. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Highly recommended introductory guide to scientific communication. Montgomery provides a quick historical overview of scientific writing, and then concentrates on writing good scientific prose. The book also deals with proposals, graphics, and presentations. One chapter is devoted to helping non-English speakers with guidance on how to write well.

Penrose, Ann M. and Katz, Steven B. Writing in the Sciences: Exploring Conventions of Scientific Discourse. New York, NY: The St. Martin's Press. 1998.

A short textbook, but well worth reading for excellent insights in how to do professional science writing, particularly when it comes to following accepted conventions (a critical skill) and understanding that communicating in science is a social enterprise. The book also includes a number of very useful case studies and examples of successful proposals and papers across scientific fields.


Cleveland, William S. The Elements of Graphing Data. Summit, NJ: Hobart Press, 1994.
Cleveland, William S. Visualizing Data. Summit, NJ: Hobart Press, 1999.

Cleveland, a professor of statistics at Purdue University and formerly a research scientist at AT&T Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, is one of the pioneers in graph creation. In his books and essays, he systematically addresses methods and principles of graphing and information design. Both of these books are aimed at scientists and technologists. The Elements of Graphing Data focuses on methods and principles, and the perception of information displays; Visualizing Data is an extended treatment on graphical methods.

Few, Stephen. Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten.  Oakland, CA: Analytics Press, 2004.

A book that focuses on creating easy-to-understand business graphs and tables and includes best practices in creating both. All graphs and tables in the book were created with Microsoft Excel in part to demonstrate that good design can be achieved using this familiar software tool.

Hargis, Gretchen. Developing Quality Technical Information, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall PTR, 1998.

Rather than organizing its content by subject matter (reports, process descriptions, etc.), this book instead is organized by "quality characteristics" - that is, key concepts in the processing of information such as "Accuracy," Clarity," etc.

Harris, Robert L. Information Graphics: A Comprehensive Illustrated Reference: Visual Tools for Analyzing, Managing, and Communicating. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Nearly 500 pages providing some 4000 illustrations of virtually every kind of graph, chart, and diagram imaginable. Organized alphabetically in an encyclopedia-like format.

Tufte, Edward R. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Chesire, CT: Graphics Press, 1983.
Tufte, Edward R. Envisioning Information.  Chesire, CT: Graphics Press, 1990.
Tufte, Edward R. Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative. Chesire, CT: Graphics Press, 1997.

Tufte's now-classic books on information design, including his famous discussion of the space shuttle Challenger disaster. Memorable concepts and phrases from these books include chartjunk,;ink-to-information ratio;andadjacent in space, not stacked in time.
Tukey, John, The Collected Works of John Tukey: Volume V Graphics: 1965-1985. Cleveland, William S., ed. Pacific Grove, CA: Wadsworth & Brooks/Cole, 1988.
This book gathers up the essays on graphing of John Tukey, perhaps the 20th century's leading expert on mathematical statistics and the discipline of exploratory data analysis. Many of these essays are intensely mathematical, yet offer useful insights on displaying information optimally.