Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Study and Communication Skills for the Biosciences

Cover It's always a difficult moment. A colleague gives you a complimentary copy of a book they've just published. What do you do? Well if it's any good, it's easy to lavish praise on it, but what if it's not? Just smile and keep quiet, I guess. The fact that I'm reviewing such a book here tells you that it can't be too bad ;-)

Study and Communication Skills for the Biosciences by Stuart Johnson and Jon Scott is aimed at bioscience students entering university or college courses. The strength of this book is in the authors' 10 years experience of developing and delivering a first year module in study and communication skills for bioscience students at the University of Leicester. It takes a very thorough and logical approach which will undoubtedly be helpful to students making the transition to higher education, and I will definitely be recommending it to my first year students (in case the authors are too embarrassed to do so themselves ;-)
  • Why are study skills important?
  • Making the Most of Lectures
  • Working with sources
  • Writing Essays
  • Writing Practical Reports
  • Tutorials and Group Work
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Scientific Presentations
  • Using Feedback
  • Revision Skills
  • Exam Skills
Which is not to say that the book is without some weaknesses. "Using the internet" occupies just 3% of the book, which is maybe slightly odd for a book on communication skills published in the 21st century? Although the advice given in this brief section is generally sound, some of the comments about Google are inaccurate, and the blanket anti-Wikipedia stance is unhelpful as well as ill-advised. Apart from this, this is the best practical guide to study skills that I have seen. But do the students who could really benefit from this advice buy books? I guess we'll find out.