Finding your inner reporter

Recommendations for Science Buzz blog posts: These are guidelines that the Science Museum of Minnesota uses to guide bloggers in writing Science Buzz posts.
Recommendations for Science Buzz blog posts: This is how folks at the Science Museum of Minnesota make articles clear and understandable to many, many people.
Courtesy SMM

Ever wonder how people work together to communicate clearly — to as many people as possible?

Here's one way we do it for the Buzz. A file like this gets passed around to Science Buzz bloggers at the Science Museum of Minnesota. These recommendations help our bloggers structure posts. You can see how they try to get the main point across really quickly. They point out how the subject matter relates to a general audience. Then they relate it all back to current science.

It is very common for magazines, museums and websites to have writers, editors and graphic designers all working together to make ideas come across without confusion. People who work at museums spend a lot of time figuring out how to make sense — to everyone.

There is a field called 'science writing' which attracts many people who are interested in current science as well as writing and reporting. If becoming a reporter for science interests you, why not start writing posts on Science Buzz?

Here are some tips from some of our most prolific Science Buzz bloggers.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Joe's picture
Joe says:

Reference your sources. Even better, reference your sources using links. And try to avoid using wikipedia as a reference - try to use a primary source, if possible. If you are using wikipedia to learn more about your topic, follow the links in the article to get to primary sources.

And add an image whenever possible - Creative Commons is a great resource for this.

posted on Fri, 09/19/2008 - 2:55pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Don't spend lots of time summarizing an article. Just post a link to the original source, and get right to the part about what it means.

My favorite posts are the ones where the writers' personalities shine. I also love it when people ask good questions about something they've observed or read, and then seek out answers. Just look around: science is everywhere. If it's interesting to you, it's probably interesting to someone else, too.

Oh, and use spell check. Otherwise you'll get tons of comments informing you of your spelling errors, and none about the content of your post.

posted on Fri, 09/19/2008 - 3:11pm
Joe's picture
Joe says:

I'll second two of Liza's comments - let your voice come through in the post. Do you think something is cool, or lame, or scary? You don't have to be only a reporter (though you certainly can) you can also be YOU - and those articles are some of the best.

And spell check. People can be merciless when it comes to misspellings. The cool thing about this site is that you'll get the dotted red line under misspelled words, so just pay attention and the site will help you out!

posted on Mon, 09/22/2008 - 12:32pm
ARTiFactor's picture
ARTiFactor says:

Current science sources
If you want to save time finding posts about current science, visit these websites.

  • science.originalsignal.com This webpage shows the most recent articles from 14 top science websites (National Geographic, Scientific American, New Scientist, etc.) all on one page. If you check back later, the site greys out headlines you previously looked at and shows new posts in blue.
  • popurls.com This website shows the most recent articles from dozens of the most popular websites. Several are "social" sites (digg, del.icio.us, slashdot, etc.) where articles are voted up or down by thousands of readers. This page is not science only like originalsignal but if a topic is "hot" it will show up on this page.
  • twine.com/twine/1txcnqvp-j1/current-science Twine.com is where I share current science articles I think should be written up on our Buzz blog. Twine is a Web 3.0 type tool that is still "invite-only beta"(to join just ask for an invite). So far 193 members have joined with me in sharing 1127 items we consider "current science".
posted on Sun, 09/21/2008 - 11:17am
Joe's picture
Joe says:

Science Daily (http://www.sciencedaily.com/) is also a great resource for current science stories. And you can set it up to email you stories that you are interested in daily. I get the daily space updates, for example.

posted on Mon, 09/22/2008 - 12:34pm
ARTiFactor's picture
ARTiFactor says:

Science Daily is included as one of the 14 sites contained in Original Signal.

posted on Mon, 09/22/2008 - 1:07pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Go here for some helpful hints on writing. A few additional thoughts:

Write as if you were talking to a good friend. In fact, one helpful hint is to write your post as a letter. When composing your draft, actually write "Dear Bruce" (or whatever the name of your best friend is) across the top, and proceed to write as if you were talking just to them. Then, before posting, delete the salutation. You'll have a nice, friendly, conversational item.

Avoid jargon -- big, fancy scientific words. We're not writing to show off how smart we are; we're writing to help people learn about science. So, we need to use language everyone can understand. This doesn't mean "dumbing down" -- writing only about simple ideas. It means writing about complex ideas, just using simple words to describe them.

Avoid all forms of the word "be," including "is," "are," "was," "were," "been," "become," etc. They make for dull writing. Sometimes you can't avoid it. But wherever possible, write your sentences so that your actors are doing something, rather than just sitting around being something. (I just read this post, and made several changes to smooth out the rough edges.)

Finally, and most important, read the piece to yourself out loud before posting. You'll almost always find something that doesn;t sound right, or a sentence that makes you stumble. And if you stumble, when you know what's coming, imagine how hard it will be for somebody reading this for the first time.

posted on Tue, 09/30/2008 - 7:15pm