What makes it a good science story?

Here are some of the characteristics of a good science story, as identified by Communicating Science fellows of this semester (Spring 2017):

  • It grabs the reader’s attention right at the beginning with a catchy headline, a good lead, entertaining content or a “cool” topic that captures the imagination, humor, or timeliness.
  • It gets the science right; it is accurate, thorough, and factual, and the reasoning is clear.
  • It cites sources or provides links to original studies so that interested readers can find out more.
  • It avoids jargon and acronyms (or defines it) and can be understood by someone who is not in the field of study that is the topic of the story.
  • It provides examples and relates the research to readers’ personal lives; it pulls at readers’ heartstrings’ it uses case studies to help readers identify with subjects.
  • It uses analogies and metaphors to help readers make the leap from the known to the unknown.
  • It tells a story using lots of quotes from the researcher(s) or using a dialog form.
  • It is well written and easy to read; quantity of detail fits length of story; sentences and paragraphs are short. Historical perspective can be helpful.
  • It includes callout boxes, diagrams, appealing photos, graphics, maps, figures, videos. Bulleted lists are useful.
  • It tells why the work is important or relevant – what problem does it solve? How does it move us forward? What is the impact on human life? Re-stressing significance at the end is effective.
  • It offers something positive, useful, and constructive beyond the study itself; inclusive language that empowers the reader, for example.
  • It is concise. The writing is clear and easy to understand. For difficult concepts, it starts simple and builds to complex.
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