Whether you want to break headlines, communicate concepts or discuss dilemmas, EUSci is here to help you get into science writing.
Here is our recipe for a great article.
Step 1: Find a topic
Start by reading around to find a science topic that captures your imagination. Your content could come from a variety of places:
- news outlets and press releases;
- EUSci commissions;
- prompts on the EUSci News Writers Facebook Group;
- other popular science magazines and websites;
- a popular science book;
- a paper you came across in an academic journal;
- something that inspired you in your coursework;
- or a piece of research you have done yourself or contributed to.
Step 2: Choose a template
Think about what you want to achieve with your article. Do you want to write a quick news piece, go into depth with a piece of research, argue your opinion on something, or re-tell a forgotten history? Choose an article format to help with structure and style.
- News (published on website). Aim: tell the reader the key facts about some new research and why it is important.
- Research. Aim: engage the reader with the nuances of the science, clearly explaining the methods, results and implications without inducing any yawns!
- Outlook. Aim: inspire the reader to think about the future in a new way, by exploring the latest breakthroughs in a field and suggesting what might happen next.
- History. Aim: tell a gripping story from the past with strong characters and a moral that tells us something about the present.
- Opinion. Aim: convince your reader that you are right. You might have an idea for how science could be done better, an opinion on the ethics of a particular field, or a view on who is right in a scientific debate.
- Book review. Aim: critique a popular science book, summarising what the author aimed to communicate and evaluating how well they did so.
- Creative. Got an idea for some sci-fi? A poem? Something that doesn’t fit any category above? No problem, just get in touch with the editors at email@example.com to check it is right for EUSci.
Check out these 12 tips from the American Scientist on writing about science for the general public, including links to loads of great examples.
Step 3: Turn it into a story
Stop! Before you accidentally write an essay (yawn), ask yourself what your angle is. What is it that will interest readers about this topic? There are lots of reasons that science is worth writing about.
- Has something been achieved that couldn’t be done before?
- Will it make a significant impact on people’s lives or change the way we need to think about something?
- Is there an interesting schism or disagreement on the topic?
- Has there been a common misunderstanding?
- Is it something new that readers will not have come across elsewhere?
- Is there an amusing, relatable or emotional aspect to the story?
- If you are writing an opinion piece: how does it make you feel personally?
Step 4: Scaffolding
Once you have researched your content and decided on your angle, identify all of the pieces of information that the reader needs to understand the story. Organise the information in a logical order that will bring the reader smoothly and directly to the “take home message”. Sometimes it is easiest to write down the conclusion first, and then work backwards.
Keep working until you have a list of single-sentence bullet points that somebody else could read and understand the structure of your article. Once you have gotten to this point, you have done the majority of the hard work!
Step 5: Killer first sentence
Your introduction should start with a surprising, attention-grabbing sentence that makes the reader stop flicking through the magazine or scrolling down the page. From there, you should then make it clear what your article is about – do not be afraid of giving spoilers, as it much easier to read a story if you know roughly where it is going.
Step 6: Link the paragraphs
The challenge now is to take your “scaffolding” and fill in the finer details to create paragraphs, linking them seamlessly together. Keep paragraphs short for readability, and try reading the ‘linking sections’ – i.e. the two sentences on either side of paragraph breaks – on their own to check how well they flow.
Incorporate your own style and flair as you go, but check every now and then with somebody else that it does not become too distracting or confusing.
As you go, ask yourself if an image, chart, drawing or diagram could better convey any of the information in your article. If you need help with producing one, let us know and we might be able to help.
Step 7: Hammer home the key point
A good conclusion is vital. Your final paragraph needs to recap your article, without incorporating any new information, thus leaving the reader with a sense of fulfilment and completion. Repeat your ‘take home message’, and finish with a sentence that has a sense of gravity and assurance.
Step 8: Fact check yourself
The art of good science journalism is to make science accessible and entertaining, without distorting or over-extrapolating from the evidence. Is it clear from your article exactly what the evidence is and how it was obtained? Have you given a fair indication of the uncertainties involved and used statistics appropriately? If you have included your own opinions, is it clear that they are your opinions and not anybody else’s?
If you are unsure about any of these questions, note down your concerns and include them when you submit the article to the EUSci editors.
Submit your article
Nice work! Head over to our write page and click the big button saying submit. This will take you straight to the submission form.
You will then work with the editing team to make your article the best it can be. Editing is a great way of improving your writing, so why not join the team yourself?
Tips and Tricks
Still hungry for more? Want to take it to the next level? Read some professional articles about science journalism here, check out this website on using narrative in science writing, or these notes from a science writing lecturer.