The Mad Scientist's Guide to Composition

Reviewed by Rebekah Phillips

Title: The Mad Scientist’s Guide to Composition: A Somewhat Cheeky but Exceedingly Useful Introduction to Academic Writing

Author: Jeffrey Alan Weinstock

Publisher: Broadview Press, 2019

Overview: Weinstock’s The Mad Scientist’s Guide to Composition is a lime-green, incredibly portable guide to freshman composition. Written to satisfy Weinstock’s requirements for his own class, including his research material in the form of jokes and essays about horror movies and Gothic literature, his book is a relatable, easy-to-follow text that really understands what instructors and students need and want out of composition textbooks.

Book Layout

  • “Nuts and Bolts (Mechanics)”
    • focuses broadly on grammar—what nouns, verbs, and adjectives are; when and how to use a comma.
  •  “Graverobbing (Finding, Evaluating, and Incorporating Sources)”
    • the differences between primary and secondary sources
    • finding peer-reviewed sources
    • how to interpret and analyze different sources
  • “Readying the Lab”
    • brainstorming potential topics
    • formulating an argument
    • outlining a paper
  •  “Conducting Experiments”
    • helps explain concepts like ethos, pathos, logos, ad hominem attacks, and other rhetorical devices
    • thinking through who the writer’s audience is
    • explaining synthesis
    • a sample paper
  •  “The Monster Lives! . . . Or Does It?”
    • how to review peer papers
    • reverse outlining
  • “Placating Ghosts”
    • focuses briefly on MLA, APA, and Chicago format

Strengths

  • Utilizes funny, contemporary language to make reading enjoyable
  • Gives concrete, actionable advice for writing and revising papers
  • Has several samples of outlining papers and student papers
  • Inexpensive

Weaknesses

  • Many allusions to Gothic literature, which might go over students’ heads
  • Frequent jokes that rely on various horror movies, which might not appeal to students’ tastes or to the instructor’s theme for the class


Rebekah has written a more detailed (and lively!) review as well, and it can be found under the site blog.