Trees, Maps, and Theorems
J.-L. Doumont, Principiae, Kraainem, 2010, $96.00 (hardcover).
As an executive coach who works with engineers, scientists and managers, Doumont has long been
interested in effective communication, pedagogy, statistical thinking and related themes. In his book, he
offers advice to anyone who wishes to have “practical tips toward getting messages across optimally in
written documents, oral presentations and graphical displays.”
The difficulties that scientists face in rising through their professions, Doumont argues, stem largely
from lack of strategy. In other words, it is a matter of optimization under constraints. The results are re-
vealed to be inadequate if the presenters or the writers do not play by the rules of the game. He makes
the point that oral communication is different from written communication, and that you need to think
about your audience and your rhetorical goals.
In addition to focusing on how individuals can develop strategies to succeed in writing documents
and presenting orally scientific results, Trees, Maps and Theorems offers tips and guidelines on how
to raise your level in writing documents, presenting an oral presentation, and designing graphs for
illustrative purposes. Although Doumont targets most of these strategies for researchers in academia,
this book will be useful for anyone wondering how to maximize visibility for their work. Doumont has
great knowledge and passion for this subject. This book is persuasive and based on a deep experience, even if it contains few references. Its greatest charm is its obsession with details. I also recommend it for graduate students who are creating slides for an effective oral presentation (see related
article on p. 12 of this issue).
Review by Christian Brosseau, professor of physics in the physics department at the Université de Bretagne
Occidentale in Brest, France, and an OSA Fellow.
The opinions expressed
in the book review section
are those of the reviewer
and do not necessarily reflect those of OPN or OSA.
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