How to write popular scientific articles?

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Have you ever encountered the following scenario?

Scenario:

{ You are a BSc/MSc/PhD or junior researcher and are working on a challenging research project. You strongly believe that soon, what you research will make the world a better place (:D). PS: you gotta be VERY optimistic. 

One day, you went to a family/friends celebration/gathering/wedding (Or any sort of events that you were not with your colleagues). Your grandma came enthusiastically to you and asked you about your work. You were excited to explain, but soon you realized that she had no clue about a word that you were saying. You got frustrated and just replied to your grandma: oh nanny, that was too complicated to explain, you’ll not understand. The same situation also happened to your friends who are not researchers. }

The above situation has occurred many many times to me. I began to realize that it was not their problem, it was mine. I should not have expected everyone to understand what I described, because I was using way too many, way too many jargons that they do not know.

” If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” Albert Einstein mentioned. 

So, the problem is from our side.

Fortunately, we have had an interesting and useful scientific writing course lecture earlier in June during the PATHSENSE summer school, with Dr Steven Flipse – the founder and director of S.Flipse Training and Consultancy. He has shared several important tips on Popular Scientific Writing, which mainly helps students or junior researchers to write easily understandable scientific articles for the public.

Not only we want to research, we also need to make others understand what we research.

So let’s get into it and write a letter of research to your grandma in an easy manner. Here, I summarized 10 tips for writing a popular scientific article from the course material of Flipse’s classes.

10 Useful Tips for Popular Scientific Writing
1. Storytelling
Everyone likes to listen to amusing stories. So think of a story in mind to tell, which can be linked to your research.
There are several stories types:
  • From bad to good: Tell what is happening in the world, what the bad point is, and your plan to fix this and how the outcome will change the bad situation into a good one.
  • The battle: Mention two different hypothesis about a phenomenon and how you are going to put them to trial? What is the outcome and why?
  • The journey:  Tell the broad overview of what you are investigating and lead the audience to look at detailed elements in point forms.
  • The detective/the hunt:  Tell an intriguing phenomenon, and explain what would be the cause of it. Make assumption to YES/NO possible cause of the phenomenon and explain briefly. Whatever the case may be, it is necessary to continue the research
  • The big surprise: Mention what people have always believed in a phenomenon, and explain the surprising news/ any fruitful results/ new discovery/ surprising new theory.
2. Creative but informative headline
Come out with a short, creative headline which attracts the audience’s attention. Keep it short but informative. Recommendable in one line or two.
3. Include teaser, temptation, or questions in the lead
Think of a lead in the story following the headline. Describe it in 30- 40 words (about 2 -3 lines), usually ask a question or appoint a teaser or temptation sentence, but no conclusion and no aim in this short paragraph.
4. Check other structural elements 
Follow the right structure in ascending order.
  • Headline
  • Lead
  • Intro (The actual start of a story, why? why now?)
  • Content grouping (arrange information in a logical sequence in different paragraphs ( about 50- 100 words)
  • Subheads
  • Include sidebars and boxes ( can be used to distract readers for another storyline, link with the main story, make it attractive and independent)
  • Illustrations (Illustrate interest or information, do not present graphs or tables)
  • Streamers ( Use figure as text as short stimulation, stress your opinion)
  • Kicker ( Finish last text with quotes? or claims from famous and influential characters?)
5. Follow 10 writing rules in content writing:
  • Keep the target audience in the flow of your story
  • Use examples to explain your story
  • Use active voice instead of passive voice
  • Be clear and precise
  • Repeat the key message
  • Keep layout easy, clear & attractive
  • Linking paragraphs with hedging words
  • Convey only 1 message per paragraph
  • Use stories/anecdotes
  • KISS (Keep it short and simple)

6. Vary choice of word

Always use synonyms, figures, imagery that corresponds to the reader’s knowledge, use personal words and sentences.

7. Use a character in your story

Enter a dialogue with your readers. Use phrase or paragraph that was mentioned by famous characters (e.g celebrities, companies CEO, influential people with a special position in particular fields). Bring these people to life, Make a connection to your story and allow people to speak.

8. Use quotation

Using well-known quotes in your writing is just like adding different spices to your meal. It can help you to add credibility to your article. Some specific sayings from famous characters might be newsworthy and can be used to convey important messages, opinion or policy.

9. Avoid using jargons

This is the common problem of researchers. Certain words might be used often within the lab, but are not known at all to other people with other professions. Therefore it is vital to check your article by asking others from other backgrounds to read through it and make corrections. Or you can use different websites to detect jargons in your script and modify it with more appropriate and common words.

10. Create an eye-catching featured image

Use only one or two images in an article but not more. The image should be colourful, eye-catching and informative. You are free to choose free images online but is always better to create your own customized images.

Image result for eye catching images Click here to check 5 tools to create eye-catching images

I hope all these tips could be useful to you and help you for your next article writing or oral presentation.

By | 2018-08-29T12:47:36+00:00 August 26th, 2018|Kah Yen Yeak, NEWS, OTHER, OUTREACH & COMMUNICATION|

About the Author:

Completed Master of Microbiology and Biochemistry at Georg Augusta University of Göttingen. Currently, work as a Ph.D. research candidate at Nizo Food Research in the Netherlands. The position involves the direct interaction with the University of Wageningen in the food microbiology department. Involve in the Pathsense Network under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant, working together with world-leading universities, research institutions and companies across different countries in EU. Have experiences in genetics, microbiology and cell culture laboratory works. Speak 6 different languages
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