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Year : 2007  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 95

Book Reviews

Book and electronic media review editor, Education for Health, USA

Date of Web Publication25-Jan-2013

Correspondence Address:
J A Gravdal
1775 Dempster St., IL 60068, Park Ridge
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

How to cite this article:
Gravdal J A. Book Reviews. Educ Health 2007;20:95

How to cite this URL:
Gravdal J A. Book Reviews. Educ Health [serial online] 2007 [cited 2022 Jan 20];20:95. Available from:

Scientific Writing: Easy When You Know How

Jennifer Peat, Elizabeth Elliott, Louise Baur and Victoria Keena.

BMJ Books, London, 2002.

ISBN: 0 7279 1625 4

As a person who lacks confidence about writing for public consumption, I often seek guidance from those who do it well. Scientific Writing: Easy When You Know How, written by four Australian women, is a resource I am happy to possess. The first six chapters walk the reader through the process of writing a research paper and getting it published. Chapter Seven has instructions for other types of published papers, such as letters to the editor, editorials, systematic reviews, and case reports. Next, four chapters focus on writing style, grammar, word choice and punctuation. The book ends with a chapter on support systems, addressing helpful resources for writers.

The beginning chapter "Scientific Writing" is, in fact, not scientific. It is decidedly artistic. This chapter deals with finding a place and time to write and encourages a writerly mind. "You should allow yourself to get into a writing mood" (page 7) is exactly the advice I received from a fiction-writing coworker years ago, during a department-wide writing class. The art of writing is reinforced throughout the text. Every section in every chapter begins with an inspirational quote, and writing style is the focus in the last several chapters in the book. The final chapter, "Support Systems" encourages authors to form writing groups to provide support, improve their craft, and inspire each other.

Chapters 2 through 5 are organized in a common-sense way, leading the reader through the stages of writing and publishing a research manuscript. Chapter 2, "Getting Started" reminds the reader to complete a set of tasks prior to writing, such as selecting a journal and finding its instructions for authors. The discussion on how to make decisions about authorship is excellent. Chapter 3, "Writing Your Paper" provides specific instruction about writing. This is the must-read section for new research authors. Peat and her colleagues outline each section of the IMRAD structure (Introduction, Methods, Results And Discussion), and instruct the reader what to write in each paragraph. They even provide advice about how to write about analysis, numbers, tables and figures. Chapter 4, "Finishing Your Paper," addresses titles, bibliographies, cover letters and other finishing touches, while Chapter 5, "Review and Editorial Processes" describes what happens to a manuscript after it leaves the writer's hands.

Peat, Elliott, Bauer and Keena are clearly teachers. Each chapter begins with a set of learning objectives. Chapters are punctuated with illustrative boxes, such as "Box 3.1 Example of a well-structured abstract," "Box 4.5 Checklist questions for reviewers and writers," and "Box 7.5 Advantages of using a standard format for Cochrane reviews." In the four chapters addressing writing style and grammar, authors illustrate bad writing examples and provide improved revisions. Every chapter ends with a bibliography that includes both printed reference materials as well as helpful websites.

Scientific Writing by Peat, Elliott, Baur and Keena has a wealth of resources for new academicians. Its strength is in its clear and detailed instruction about how to write a research manuscript, including the pre-writing tasks as well as the finishing touches. Its limitation is its short section on managing writer's block, which is a source of frustration and panic for many new authors. This topic deserves an entire chapter, including writing exercises to move one past the slump.

In my academic life, it took me about ten years to cobble together my own personal approach to writing a research article. Yet, the savvy writer can find the strategy summarized here. I wish I had this text available to me when I was a new and uncertain writer. Don't wait ten years.

Reviewed by:

Sandra K. Burge, Ph.D.

Department of Family & Community Medicine

University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio


Health Promotion: Evidence and Experience

Kevin Lucas and Barbara Lloyd

Sage Publications, London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi, 2005

ISBN: 978 076194006 7, 168 pages

This book offers an interesting and thought provocative blend of history, observations and challenging recommendations regarding the field of health promotion. While much of what the authors share seems focused on the UK, they pull from a diverse pool of research and experiences spanning many countries and cultures that yield more "universal" challenges and recommendations with implications for more successful health promotion initiatives virtually anywhere. Nearly every page includes a substantive mix of examples, citations and commentary.

Chapters include: 1) Health and health promotion: theory, models and approaches; 2) Health, disease and illness: the voice of authority; 3) Health, social indicators and the quality of life; 4) Social capital for all?; 5) Reasoned action? More theory than evidence; 6) Risky behaviour? Judging the odds; 7) The indivisibility of the individual from society; and 8) Human perspectives in health promotion.

The authors provide insightful recaps of the intertwining histories of medicine, sociology, psychology and health promotion. A brief comparison is made between the paths of public health in the UK and US. Included are summaries and discussions of varied definitions of health (including those from the WHO, lay people and professionals), key models considered in health promotion (e.g., illness, biomedical, holistic, diffusion-adoption, social marketing, capacity building, public health policy development models, and others), the medicalisation of health, social reflexivity (e.g., impacts of chronic revisions [of messages] in light of new information and knowledge) and the term 'disease mongering' first introduced in 2002 primarily to describe key drivers of rising use and costs of pharmaceuticals.

The chapter on health and social indicators provides summaries of common epidemiological terms and the complex of variables affecting health including social class, societies and quality of life. Social capital is explored in what it means, challenges regarding measurement and links with families, spirituality and nature (environments). The chapter on "more theory than evidence" includes discussions of the health belief model, subjective expected utility, reasoned action and transtheoretical (stages of change) model (including its limitations) and challenges moving forward regarding use of such models. Missing was a discussion of the PRECEDE-PROCEED model (from Health Promotion Planning: An Educational and Environmental Approach; Lawrence Green and Marshall Kreuter; Mayfield Publishing; 1991) which could add insights for readers in the next edition.

Considerably moving are the chapters on judging the odds, the individual and society and the human perspective. Challenges are made regarding messages that over emphasize risk, health and self, at the expense of something greater than one self, such as others - e.g., family and society. Social isolation, ethnicity, social cohesion and sense of coherence are discussed with implications regarding health and models of social support and disease prevention. The authors conclude with some refreshing challenges to all involved in moving health promotion forward - whether health professional, practitioner or other key stakeholders.

While short, this book is rich in scope and depth of insights and challenges. I found myself reading over passages again and again, pondering implications for my daily work with individuals and larger populations in the arena of health promotion. Having been in the field for over 30 years, I was identifying with much of what Lucas and Lloyd share in this book. Still, most of it required significant review and reflection for determining the opportunities and best ways to make the needed changes and paradigm shifts suggested that seem imminent AND imperative to move health promotion to a higher level of meaningfulness and effectiveness. Readers of this book should have a good head start on being able to make significant improvements in health promotion - with individuals, families and populations of all sizes and types.

Reviewed by:

Bob Gorsky, Ph.D.

President and lead consultant of HPN WorldWide

Elmhurst, IL 60126, USA


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