Unit 3

Not Exactly Rocket Science: Science for Everyone!

Popular writing in the sciences

For the first two feeders, you’ll be working with blog entries from Ed Yong’s science blog, NOT EXACTLY ROCKET SCIENCE. Or, any other fun science blog, such as Derek Lowe’s In the Pipeline. Or, our very own popular science magazine, Carolina Scientific.

Feeder 1: Genre Analysis of Popular Science Writing
Length: 350-450 words
Manuscript preparation:  MLA format
Submission Format: Paper

Before you can begin to write science for a popular science blog, you need to confront popular science writing in its natural environment: the popular science blog.  Select three of Ed Yong’s blog entries and write a genre analysis of the rhetorical and formal features of the science blog genre.

Feeder 2: Summarizing Professional Science Writing
Length: 400-600 words
Manuscript preparation:  MLA format
Submission Format: Paper
Submission Extras: Include a paper copy of the original research article with your summary.

Now that you’ve warmed up your analytical skills to discover what the science blog is, what it does, and how it works, you are ready for the next task: tackling science writing its purest form, the professional science research article. The object of this feeder assignment is to master the succinct summary.

Journals I recommend for this assignment:

PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)
Nature Neuroscience
Nature Genetics
Nature Medicine
Nature Communications

Unit 2 Final Project: Science Blogging
Length: 750-1000 words
Manuscript Preparation: MLA Format
Submission Format: upload to our class blog: IN CLASS

For this final project you will be creating your own science blog entry and posting it to our class blog in the style of Ed Yong—making the article accessible and interesting to a broad general audience.  Writing popular science requires two basic things:

  • Cutting through the scientific rhetoric deployed in professional science writing by using language of appropriate formality (informal, popular).  This may include eliminating or limiting jargon or adequately defining any jargon-y language you use.  In other words, you’re making something that may seem complicated simple and easy to understand.
  • Making the scientific findings relevant and interesting to a broad audience. This second part requires more finesse and creativity. Here is where you as a writer and thinker will shine. What connections can you make between the scientific research you’re relaying and current political, social, economic, or ideological concerns? What connections can you make between the scientific research and people’s everyday lives? How might this affect their lives or the decisions they make on a daily basis? How might this effect the way they view the world around them?