Johnson and Scott, professors at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, have developed a guide that addresses study and presentation strategies for college students in the biological sciences. The book is composed of 14 chapters that cover general topics from note-taking skills up to poster preparation and study skills for exams. The beginning chapters are very general and struck me as common-sense knowledge for any dedicated student, regardless of the subject area. The narrative picks up when the authors discuss specific topics, using biology as a central theme. For instance, Chapter 8, ““Avoiding Plagiarism,”” goes into much detail about what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it, and even includes some useful exercises on how to detect it. Another strong chapter is ““Working with Different Information Sources,”” which guides students in accessing and properly citing the various types of sources one encounters in the biological sciences. The chapter titled ““Creating Academic Posters”” is very useful in terms of its depth and breadth and could prove useful even for graduate students or those presenting a poster at a professional conference.
Other chapters in the book may not be very useful. For instance, the last chapter, ““Getting the Most Out of Exams,”” seems redundant for a student who has made it into a selective college or university. Also, the suggestions on how to answer short-answer and/or essay questions may not be applicable to every biology course, since specific requirements and grading styles may vary significantly among instructors. A cookie-cutter approach is not always to be recommended, and students should focus on specific instructions given by an instructor. One missing aspect is how to prepare slide presentations, since not all presentations given in a course or conference are in the form of a paper. PowerPoint®® is mentioned only within the context of various presentation formats. Another redundant chapter is the one on writing style, which reviews basic punctuation rules. This is something a student has learned in other courses.
Given the few chapters that address biology directly, the book reads like a study//writing guide with just a bit of bioscience thrown in for the sake of subject specificity. The book has its merit as a study guide, but the high price for a paperback may deter some prospective buyers. I usually refer my students to a book that addresses most of the topics covered by Johnson and Scott but at a third of the price. Nonetheless, this book should be a useful resource for high school//college teachers and students who wish to develop a systematic approach for learning biology or any other science subject.