The Art of Scientific Writing, a style guide for practitioners in the natural sciences,

emphasizes the importance of written communication for sharing information,

publishing findings, and generally contributing to one’s field of inquiry. Among

the genres the authors discuss-from reports to dissertations to journal articles-

they pay early and detailed attention to the laboratory notebook, describing it

as the “‘germ cell’ of the scientific literature” (Ebel, Bliefert, & Russey, 2004,

p. 16). I mention this quote not simply to point out what might be evident to many

scholars of rhetoric: namely, that writing is an essential component of scientific

communication and knowledge production. More interesting to me is how the

authors explicitly characterize the laboratory notebook as progenitor to a larger

and more complex body of scientific discourse. This is no trivial statement. It

is a telling one, however, in that it speaks to the constructive role that texts play

not just in the dissemination of published findings but also in the seemingly

mundane, day-to-day work of scientists at the laboratory bench.