The Forgotten Tribe: Scientists as Writers

  • writing in the disciplines, scientific writing, multi-voiced, WAC, STEM

By Lisa Emerson
Copy edited by Julia Smith. Designed by Mike Palmquist.

CoverIn The Forgotten Tribe: Scientists as Writers, Lisa Emerson offers an important corrective to the view that scientists are "poor writers, unnecessarily opaque, not interested in writing, and in need of remediation." She argues that scientists are among "the most sophisticated and flexible writers in the academy, often writing for a wider range of audiences (their immediate disciplinary peers, peers in adjacent fields, a broad scientific audience, industry, and a range of public audiences including social media) than most other faculty." Moreover, she notes, the often collaborative and multidisciplinary nature of their work results in writing practices that "may be more socially complex, and require more articulation, mediation, and interpersonal communication, and more use of advanced media and technology than those of faculty in other disciplines."

Drawing on extensive interviews with scientists, Emerson argues that writing scholars have "engaged in a form of cultural appropriation" that has worked against a deeper understanding of the contexts in which scientists work and the considerations they bring to their writing. Emerson grounds her analysis in the voices of scientists in a way that allows us to understand not only how they approach writing but also how we might usefully teach writing in the sciences. The Forgotten Tribe offers a valuable contribution to our understanding of scientific writing, allowing us to hear voices that are seldom included in our discussions of this critical area.

Table of Contents

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Front Matter

Prologue: Book of Stories and Storytelling

Chapter 1. Countries Not Often Heard From

Chapter 2. Reaching Out

Chapter 3. The Reluctant Writers

Chapter 4. The Writing Community

Chapter 5. The Development of the Scientific Writer

Chapter 6. The Poets

Chapter 7. "We have to communicate the beauty and the passion."




Appendix A. Questionnaire for the Senior and Emerging Scientists

Appendix B. Interview Schedule for Senior and Emerging Scientists

Appendix C. Interview for Ph.D. Students

Appendix D. The Scale Used to Develop the Quantitative Data

About the Author

Lisa Emerson is Associate Professor in the School of English and Media Studies at Massey University. Her scholarly interests include science writing, scientists as writers, academic writing, plagiarism, and transitions to academic literacy. Her work has appeared in Double Helix, Curriculum Matters, and Higher Education Research and Development as well as in edited collections.

Publication Information: Emerson, Lisa. (2016). The Forgotten Tribe: Scientists as Writers. The WAC Clearinghouse; University Press of Colorado.

Web Publication Date: June 18, 2016
Print Publication Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-64215-075-9 (pdf) | 978-1-64215-076-6 (epub) | 978-1-60732-643-4 (pbk.)
DOI: 10.37514/PER-B.2016.0759

Contact Information:
Lisa Emerson:


Review by Pat Thomson, The University of Nottingham. #holidayreading – the forgotten tribe, scientists as writers. August 7, 2017.

Review by Christina Montgomery in the Journal of Teaching Writing, January 23, 2018.

Review by Justin Nicholes, University of Wisconsin, September, 2017.

Perspectives on Writing

Series Editors: Susan H. McLeod, University of California, Santa Barbara, and Rich Rice, Texas Tech University

Acrobat Reader DownloadThis book is available in whole and in part in Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF). It is also available in a low-cost print edition from our publishing partner, the University Press of Colorado.

Copyright © 2016 Lisa Emerson. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License. 256 pages, with notes, illustrations, and bibliographies. Available in print from University Press of Colorado as well as from any online or brick-and-mortar bookstore. Available in digital format for no charge on this page at the WAC Clearinghouse. You may view this book. You may print personal copies of this book. You may link to this page. You may not reproduce this book on another website.