Science journalism is an exciting and important branch of science communication. Many people get all or most of their scientific knowledge from the media, which means that science journalists have a lot of responsibility to report accurately and fairly.
Science journalism is also an excellent complement or alternative to academia and other scientific fields, so gaining experience in it as a student — and gathering portfolio pieces to show off — is a smart move.
EUSci aims to provide high-quality training and publications, in order to give our members the best possible experience in student science journalism.
Please read the contents of this guide carefully.
1. Process and Deadlines
Your articles are typically due the week you volunteer to write them. It is totally ok if you cannot meet that deadline, just let us know in advance. We are flexible but need to plan ahead.
Your article will be edited by the Sunday closest to when you submit it. It will then be uploaded on a Monday at most three weeks away from when you wrote it.
News vs. feature articles: There are two main kinds of articles in journalism. News articles are short, generally a few hundred words, and are intended to report just the bare facts: this research was conducted, here’s what they did, here’s what they found, here’s why it was important. For news articles, it’s important to figure out your lead, or the single main point of your article, and write that as your very first line. For example, “Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have discovered a cure for hiccoughs.”
Most of the articles online EuSci are news articles.
Style guide. EUSci uses the Guardian and Observer style guide and British spelling. Refer to the style guide for everything, especially tricky matters such as the plural of “octopus” or whether to spell “cliffhanger” as one word.
Word count. Ideally, your articles should be between 500 and 700 words.
Don’t touch exclamation marks. As F Scott Fitzgerald famously remarked, they’re like laughing at your own joke.
Avoid rhetorical questions. These are often used in headlines and opening/closing paragraphs. Instead of closing an article with “Are ethics seated in the brain, or are they created by society?”, consider “We still don’t know whether ethics are seated in the brain, or created by society.”
Angle Science stories require a strong angle. Pieces exploring simple ideas, such as the history of research on a topic, or what we currently know about a topic, need a more exciting angle. Here are some examples of angles you could look for (you only need one at a time):
● Is this research new or groundbreaking? Since EUSci only comes out twice a year, anything within the last few months could count as “new”.
● How does this research change things? Will it make a significant impact on people’s lives? Does it change the way we need to think about a topic?
● Is there an interesting schism or disagreement in a field?
● Are we looking at an old problem in a new way?
● Has there been special interest in this topic recently, and if so, why?
● Is this a topic that has been covered a lot, but not from a certain angle? E.g. resistance to vaccines has made the news a lot recently, but has anyone looked at the story of adults who weren’t vaccinated as children and decide to catch up on childhood vaccines?
● Do you have a strong opinion on a subject that you would like to discuss?
● Is a topic commonly misunderstood?
● Many things make a story newsworthy. Try to aim for a combination of any of the
following: controversy, zeitgeist (something relevant to the current times), human interest, timeliness (happened recently), relevance to audience, magnitude (something huge: lots of money, lots of people impacted, etc.), rarity.
Referencing. You don’t need to reference much and the only referencing you do is within the article. No footnotes, please.
Self-promotion. We encourage you to post your published articles on social media sites. Your writing deserves recognition. Include the handle to any one social media account with your submission if you would like us to publish it alongside your name.
Have fun! This is an important one folk.