How to make a good science story – Journal 3
In this week’s class, we discussed both the good and bad examples in science story/publication regarding efficient communication. Unlike the news, science stories can be really difficult to understand sometimes, and hence we engineers and scientists should be aware of this issue during the writing process. Considering most of the authors usually are experts in this specific area and deal with people with similar background everyday, they tend to assume that readers know a majority of background/basic information, which is highly unlikely for us laymen. Once they complete the whole article and get it published, they will find that they already lose the reader from the title. So how can we make a good science story, just like how to make people like you (and your story)?
(Click on the figure to be directed to the original source)
To avoid this “tragedy”, we first need to assume all readers have zero background in your field. Stop using technical terms and jargons and try to replace them with plain language. If you have to use a technical term, you can define it clearly with proper citation. Second, well-organized figures and tables can provide better reading experience than tedious words. Use the visual aids wisely to enhance readers understanding to your topic. Third, always use examples that can be easily found in our daily lives to enable rapid digestion of abstract concepts. Lastly, provide a concise abstract and a listed (point-by-point) conclusion parts to help readers skim the whole content and grasp the main idea within 5 min.
From my personal experience, I was volunteered to provide a lab tour to a group of 6th grade students in our lab. I’m not sure how deep can they understand first since my research is definitely way beyond difficult for them to digest within 15 min. So I ask them a few questions about some basic terms related to my research. Based on their answer, I got a rough picture of they scientific background, and simplified my research story. Some experiment samples were prepared by me in advance and were distributed during my tour. In this way, they could better understand my research not only through listening, but also from touching, smelling, and observation. In the end, they can go back to school with deeper understanding on water recovery and water reuse from wastewater.