What is "writing about science"?

In contrast with scientific writing directed at expert readers, writing about science informs non-experts about how science concepts and discoveries are relevant in our daily lives. Thus, writing about science relies more on analogy than on jargon, more on metaphor than on data tables, and more on writer-based narrative than data-based analysis. Ultimately, writing about science is an educational tool that provides non-technical but interested readers the opportunity to enhance their understanding of the world around them. Some of the best known and widely used examples of writing about science include Scientific American; WebMD; articles about science in TIME, Newsweek, and daily newspapers; and even the brochures we pick up in medical and veterinary offices.

Who are these non-technical but interested readers? Just about anyone. Except when experts write to experts in their own field, writers have to take into account that readers won’t know as much about the science as the writers do. Readers who are less knowledgeable about the science content are more likely to be called non-expert or non-technical readers. Here are some examples of texts to show the range of non-technical readers and how they use science writing texts:

  • Webtexts on scientific method with activities that children can do with their parents at home.
  • A website that teaches children about the importance of hygiene and vaccinations.
  • Materials explaining the physiological and neurological effects of tobacco use to adolescents.
  • Newspaper articles explaining the environmental impact and/or benefits of dams on a particular river system.
  • Brochures detailing medical treatment options for cancer patients.
  • Newsletter articles for fund-raising describing research being done at a local scientific organization.

These are just a few examples of potential texts and readers. Again, we believe that anybody can be interested in science. If you would like to see more examples of materials developed through the class projects, please visit our document gallery. Alternatively, view the list of previous site partners.