Image: Stella Lohnap interviewing a science student at Nasarawa State University, Keffi in Nigeria.
6 things that make a good science story
- Being able to write a good science story is essential for a science communicator.
- Your story matters and to reach the most people with it, it must be accurate, clear, easy to read, but also interesting to read.
Being able to write a good science story is essential for a science journalist. Why? In today’s fast-paced world, there is more to read online and in print than ever before. And people’s attention spans are decreasing.
Whether you are pitching a story to an editor, or writing for your own platform, your story will be up against stiff competition for attention. If it does not hold your reader’s interest, they will move onto the next story. In this blog, I will look at six things that make a good science story.
1. A good science story is interesting to non-specialists
A good science story tells a human story that anyone can understand. You need to make the story relevant for any reader. Show readers in one part of the world experiences that help them to relate to people in another part of the world, for example.
Narrate real-life experiences of the people involved. Describe similar situations to help set the scene. Build context. Moreover, include different angles of the experience – from a researcher to the person affected by the science to a policymaker.
2. A good science story is easy to understand
Scientific language is necessarily detailed and precise. However, many people may find it difficult to understand. You must simplify it. Remember to avoid technical words (jargon).
If you must use them, explain them first. Use expressions that evoke feelings.
Avoid information overload. Focus on the most important research finding. Show its implications on people. Furthermore, remember to organize your story logically. If you have them, use a mix of visual media, for example, infographics, photos and videos.
3. A good science story is one that is accurate
A good science story is accurate. To write in this way, you need to really understand the subject about which you are writing. Ensure you understand the meaning of technical expressions. Paraphrase carefully.
To ensure that your story is accurate, check the credibility of the journal where the study was published. Instead of relying on a press release that summarises the research, read the original research paper. If things are unclear, reach out to the scientist. Ask for clarifications. Or ask independent experts about the research.
4. A good science story has information and views from multiple sources
Diverse voices ensure that your story is more balanced and informative as well as more interesting. Think of all of the different types of views you could include:
- People who are directly and indirectly affected by the research. Those who may benefit from a vaccination, for example. And their family and friends.
- Experts in similar fields, who can give an informed and independent view about the research from a different angle.
- Policymakers who might understand the societal implications of the research findings.
5. A good science story goes beyond official information
A good science story digs into the research and goes beyond the official information. Independent investigation can reveal important details. Read independent reports.
Remember to verify the information you have. Verification can help you to probe further. It can help you produce a deeper, more interesting story.
You could even travel to the place being researched. That might mean the laboratory or the country in which the research takes place. Talk to people and look for angle different to the official line.
6. A good science story helps audiences understand an issue better
Help your readers to understand a complex science issue in a digestible way. Do not only present the facts. Make sense of what is happening for your readers. Ask questions that seek to explain complex details.
Let the goal of writing be to help the reader understand more about an issue by the time they have finished reading your story. Seek to inform.
In conclusion, remember that a combination of many things makes a good science story. Your story matters and to reach the most people with it, it must be accurate, clear, easy to read, but also interesting to read. Good luck!
To learn more about science communication, read Science Communication Skills for Journalists by Dr Charles Wendo. And take our free online course, Script.