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How to write a science blogpost people want to read

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Turning a research paper into a blogpost and structuring your stories. Why blog, how science blogging differs from academic writing and tips on finding great content and honing your style.

This presentation was used in a Future Earth #popupwebinar on September 16th 2015.

Published in: Science
  • Thanks for the post. Awesome guide for beginners. All the points you mentioned are correct. I knew some points before but also got new ones. Write post which provides informative, quality, motivating information which makes your blog an ultimate. Moreover, the headlines matter, it's true. That’s why, try to always check my headlines. But I think On page SEO is one of the important points to remember while writing the high-quality blog post. Also, don't forget to make your keyword research, and you need to have your own blogging/writing style. I believe that the quality of the content you write is more important than the number of posts or the number of words. Quality, Grammar, Easy Reading and Long text are the four pillar of a high-quality post. Anyways, it's a great article and great tips for newbie bloggers. Doing all this stuff will definitely deliver the value customers are looking for...
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  • Hello Zel Ilano ! my friend pulled a sample DA 31 example with this link http://pdf.ac/2Dm7CE
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  • Excellent writing . I loved the points . Does someone know where I can acquire a template EPA 8700-22 document to type on ?
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How to write a science blogpost people want to read

  1. 1. How to write a science blogpost people want to read Michelle Kovacevic @kovamic for @FutureEarth #popupwebinars futureearth.org/blog/pop-webinars
  2. 2. “Storytellingis as old as humanity itself. And in a modern world saturated with electronic media, nothing resonates quite so much as the personal narrative of a storyteller. In science, this narrative has a special role, especially because what we do so often seems mysteriousto those outside our profession. Storytelling in science, whether of science valouror science beauty, provides a very human window into our world. Telling stories, simply and clearly, is the means by which we connect science with humanity.” Sir Paul Callaghan
  3. 3. What is a blog? A collection of short, informal, sometimes controversial, and sometimes deeply personal online posts.
  4. 4. Science blogs 2.48 million blogs (just Tumblr and Wordpress) Approx 20,000 science blogs New blog every 2 seconds Number written by professional research scientists is growing each day Stats from Technorati
  5. 5. 1.8 million articles published each year, in about 28,000 journals Only 10% are cited http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/half-academic-studies-are-never-read-more-three-people-180950222/ 50% only read by their authors and journal editors Hardly any scientific papers get read
  6. 6. Blogging widens readership (potentially by orders of magnitude) Pageviews
  7. 7. Stories Create Common Ground Elizabeth Connor, The KinShip http://www.thekinship.co.nz/
  8. 8. Make an impact beyond academia Blog story led to scientist being invited to brief government officials and new research collaborations.
  9. 9. Blog or be blogged “Even if you choose not to blog, you can certainly expect your papers and ideas will be increasingly blogged about. So there it is – blog or be blogged.” Professor Paul Knoepfler University of California, Davis
  10. 10. Institutional vs personal blog
  11. 11. Institutional blog Pros Cons Broad audience May not publish everything you want to write about High readership Editing assistance Less time consuming
  12. 12. Personal blog Pros Cons It’s all about you Time intensive Integrate with the rest of your profile (current publications, media etc) Need something to say Blog about other cool stuff too Can still cross publish on institutional blog
  13. 13. Collaborative blogs
  14. 14. Audience Chances are you’ll have many audiences you want to reach – policymakers, general public, potential students, collaborators etc. Many science blogs write for the intelligent non expert / undergraduate student http://www.scilogs.com/communication_breakdown/know-what-you-want-part-one/ Elena Olivo/NYU Photo Bureau
  15. 15. Finding your science stories !   Published research !   News
  16. 16. !   Published research !   News !   Analysis Finding your science stories
  17. 17. !   Published research (news, analysis) !   Comment on latest developments Finding your science stories
  18. 18. !   Published research (news, analysis) !   Comment on latest developments !   Human stories from the field, the lab Finding your science stories
  19. 19. !   Published research (news, analysis) !   Comment on latest developments in your field !   Human stories from the field, the lab. !   Interesting conference sessions Finding your science stories
  20. 20. Finding your science stories !   Published research (news, analysis) !   Comment on latest developments in your field !   Features from fieldwork !   Interesting conference sessions !   Other?
  21. 21. What about unpublished research? !   When writing about results, try to write about ones that have been peer-reviewed !   Make it clear in the story that the research is yet to be published (e.g. In forthcoming research, we have found…) !   Point out where the research sits in relation to similar work !   If it’s someone else’s research (e.g. you hear it at a conference) and you’re unsure, ask the presenter
  22. 22. Angle/Focus of the article How is this product better than its predecessor? What do users of the new phone have to say about it? Are experts predicting it will change the cell phone market? If so, how?
  23. 23. Todorov’s 5 Stage Structure Story Science Initial Equilibrium Initial State of Knowledge Disruption of Equilibrium Research reveals new information Recognition of Disruption Inconsistency recognised Attempt to repair disruption Attempt to find new knowledge Reinstatement of Equilibrium New State of knowledge Elizabeth Connor, The KinShip http://www.thekinship.co.nz/
  24. 24. How newspaper stories are written
  25. 25. Different styles
  26. 26. How academics write Long and descriptive title Abstract Introduction Methods Results Discussion Conclusion References Elizabeth Connor, The KinShip http://www.thekinship.co.nz/ Steven Pinker: http://chronicle.com/article/Why-Academics-Writing-Stinks/ 148989/
  27. 27. How academics write Long and descriptive title Abstract Introduction Methods Results Discussion Conclusion References Short, snappy title Main finding or anecdote (Lede paragraph, 1-2 sentences) “Why is it significant?” Introduction (refs hyperlinked) Brief method Results (refs hyperlinked) “Why is it significant? What does this mean for this research field?” Discussion “What next.” How science bloggers write
  28. 28. How academics write Subjective wellbeing and income: empirical patterns in the rural developing world Money buys happiness? New study says think again about those assumptions How science bloggers write
  29. 29. How academics write Subjective wellbeing and income: empirical patterns in the rural developing world A commonality in the economics of happiness literature is that the absolute income matters more for the subjective wellbeing at low income levels Money buys happiness? New study says think again about those assumptions Conventional wisdom has long held that for people who have the least, money matters much more than it does for people who are better off. But there is some dissension in the ranks. Economist Arild Angelsen believes that this is a dangerously outdated concept. “It is this idea that if you are poor, what matters is just to fill your belly with food and have shelter and some of the bare necessities covered,” he says. “And that social comparison is something only the rich care about.” How science bloggers write
  30. 30. How academics write Subjective wellbeing and income: empirical patterns in the rural developing world A commonality in the economics of happiness literature is that the absolute income matters more for the subjective wellbeing at low income levels We surveyed a large sample of people in rural areas of developing countries with relatively low income levels to test whether subjective wellbeing an increasing function of absolute income in our sample, and to analyze the existence of adaptation and social comparison effects on subjective wellbeing. Money buys happiness? New study says think again about those assumptions Conventional wisdom has long held that for people who have the least, money matters much more than it does for people who are better off. But there is some dissension in the ranks. Economist Arild Angelsen believes that this is a dangerously outdated concept. “It is this idea that if you are poor, what matters is just to fill your belly with food and have shelter and some of the bare necessities covered,” he says. “And that social comparison is something only the rich care about.” Researchers asked people hundreds of questions about ‘subjective well-being’ – or ‘happiness’ for short. People talked about how satisfied they were with their life over the previous year – and compared the economic situation of their household with others in the village – and to their own situation five years ago. How science bloggers write
  31. 31. How academics write Subjective wellbeing and income: empirical patterns in the rural developing world A commonality in the economics of happiness literature is that the absolute income matters more for the subjective wellbeing at low income levels We surveyed a large sample of people in rural areas of developing countries with relatively low income levels to test whether subjective wellbeing an increasing function of absolute income in our sample, and to analyze the existence of adaptation and social comparison effects on subjective wellbeing. Our data show that absolute income covariates with subjective wellbeing, but—as for richer samples—the magnitude of the association is lower once we control for adaptation and social comparison. Finally, our results suggest that social comparison has a stronger effect than adaptation in explaining the subjective wellbeing of our sample. They found that absolute income does matter for people’s wellbeing, but that social comparison – how well off people feel compared to their neighbours – also matters a great deal. “People were practising shifting cultivation so they would open up fields in the forest and move out to stay there for several months while the rice was growing, partly to keep bush pigs away from the rice,” he says. “I thought that this would be lonely as they’re maybe an hour walk or more from the village.” “But people said to me, ‘No we like it, because in the village there is so much consumption pressure. There’s a market, you have to buy things, the kids want sweets. We enjoy being away from all that.’ “These were poor people – and yet there’s the exactly the same social mechanisms as are at work in rich countries, consumption pressure and keeping up with the Joneses.” How science bloggers write
  32. 32. How academics write Subjective wellbeing and income: empirical patterns in the rural developing world A commonality in the economics of happiness literature is that the absolute income matters more for the subjective wellbeing at low income levels We surveyed a large sample of people in rural areas of developing countries with relatively low income levels to test whether subjective wellbeing an increasing function of absolute income in our sample, and to analyze the existence of adaptation and social comparison effects on subjective wellbeing. Our data show that absolute income covariates with subjective wellbeing, but—as for richer samples—the magnitude of the association is lower once we control for adaptation and social comparison. Finally, our results suggest that social comparison has a stronger effect than adaptation in explaining the subjective wellbeing of our sample. Our findings highlight the importance of adaptation and social comparison even at low levels of absolute income. While researching ‘happiness’ may sound frivolous, this study has serious implications for development policies for emerging economies, and rural and forest communities, the authors say. “Policy makers and development practitioners tend to create projects designed to raise income – selling non-timber forest products, for example – but if you give money to the poor and don’t look at how it is distributed, and only some people benefit, then you are creating inequalities,” Angelsen says. How science bloggers write
  33. 33. Tips for blog writing Do Don’t Tell a story – as if you were telling a friend over coffee Document the entire event Source facts and figures (hyperlink to reputable sources) Use jargon or acronyms Use striking and unusual images Write in passive voice Keep it concise (we recommend 600-800 words) Write boring and long headlines Use proper spelling, punctuation and grammar Know your audience Use quotes (and get them right)
  34. 34. Hyperlink If you mention a fact, hyperlink to a credible source (other research papers, fact sheets, databases) Allows reader to go deeper. Can suggest related reading at the end of the story (or can be automated) Don’t overdo it – for
  35. 35. Do – Use good images !   Shallow depth of field, not grainy, bright colours !   Conference photos are rarely interesting – use them sporadically. !   Flickr: www.flickr.com !   Wikimedia commons: commons.wikimedia.org !   Creative commons licence
  36. 36. Do – Keep paragraphs short !   Eye tracking studies show online readers tend to skip large blocks of text !   1-2-3-4-5 rule: Make sure your paragraph contains 1 idea, expressed in 2 to 3 short sentences, taking 4 to 5 lines on the page. !   Word count? As much as the story needs. !   Try not to go over 800 words (unless it is an investigative piece or feature) http://www.studyweb.com/scientific-web-design-23-actionable-lessons-from-eye-tracking-studies/
  37. 37. FAQ: Interviewing scientists Q: What kind of quote(s) am I looking for? Why this work is important/significant. What are Q: What if they don’t mention this? Call them and ask them. If at a conference, ask them after their presentation. (And feel free to ask them for an interview during lunch if you need more info) Q: What if they use a lot of jargon in their answer? You can paraphrase or edit the quote e.g. Dr Pahl says psychology provides clues to why such a straight-forward approach seems to be so successful. e.g. “[Psychology] shows that images attract attention…vivid information is linked to the generation of mental images.”
  38. 38. The world’s most banal science quote is: “This research is interesting but more work needs to be done”. But what research? What needs to be done? What experiments would you do? http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/05/22/a-guide-for-scientists-on-giving-comments-to-journalists/
  39. 39. Don’t – Document the event REDD+ researchers meet in Jakarta, Indonesia to talk about benefits sharing in REDD+ On Monday 17th January 2015, 150 researchers from Indonesia gathered for a workshop on REDD+ benefits sharing. The main aims of the workshop were to build stakeholder capacity, identify commonalities in benefit sharing mechanisms and opportunities for south-south exchange. What’s wrong with this title and lead paragraph?
  40. 40. Active vs passive voice https://cgi.duke.edu/web/sciwriting/index.php?action=passive_voice http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2015/04/01/scientists_should_stop_writing_in_the_passive_voice.html
  41. 41. Passive voice Academic writing uses passive voice a lot because want readers to focus on the result of an action rather than the person doing the action. Passive voice makes storytelling more difficult because it hides the characters deep in the sentence—if it shows them at all. Which of these is clearer? !   Heart disease is considered the leading cause of death in the United States. (passive) !   Researchers have concluded that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. (active) https://cgi.duke.edu/web/sciwriting/index.php?action=passive_voice http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2015/04/01/scientists_should_stop_writing_in_the_passive_voice.html
  42. 42. Writing good headlines !   Surprise – “This Is Not a Perfect Blog Post (But It Could’ve Been)” !   Questions – “Do You Know How to Create the Perfect Blog Post?” !   Curiosity gap – “10 Ingredients in a Perfect Blog Post. Number 9 Is Impossible!” !   Negatives – “Never Write a Boring Blog Post Again” !   How to – “How to Create a Perfect Blog Post” !   Numbers – “10 Tips to Creating a Perfect Blog Post” !   Audience referencing – “For People on the Verge of Writing the Perfect Blog Post” !   Specificity – “The 6-Part Process to Getting Twice the Traffic to Your Blog Post”
  43. 43. Adapted from http://www.blogtips.org/category/blogtips-primers/making-a-social-media-strategy/ Letting people know about your stories
  44. 44. In summary… !   Stories connect people and science is full of them! !   Blogs can significantly increase readership of science papers !   Grab us with your headline, image and first paragraph
  45. 45. Resources http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2015/04/09/academic-promotion-scholars-popular-media/ http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/information-culture/2013/06/26/do-blog-posts-correlate-with-a-higher- number-of-future-citations/ http://www.scilogs.com/communication_breakdown/science-blogging-citations-2014/ http://www.scit.wlv.ac.uk/~cm1993/papers/blogCitations.pdf http://www.scidev.net/global/icts/practical-guide/how-to-set-up-a-science-blog.html http://blogs.plos.org/blog/2012/12/31/ten-essential-qualities-of-science-bloggers/ http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/10-essential-steps-starting-wordpress-blog/ http://cba.scit.wlv.ac.uk/~cm1993/papers/HowIsResearchBlogged.pdf http://conservationbytes.com/2014/05/27/scientists-should-blog/ http://scienceofblogging.com/why-scientists-should-blog-a-case-study/ http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/03075079.2013.835624 https://theresearchwhisperer.wordpress.com/2015/04/14/academic-promotion-by-media-presence/ http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2014/04/23/academic-papers-citation-rates-remler/ http://chronicle.com/article/Why-Academics-Writing-Stinks/148989/
  46. 46. Submit a story and get feedback Between now and September 30, the first 30 webinar participants to submit blog stories to owen.gaffney@futureearth.org will receive personalised feedback. !   Stories should be based on science and sustainability: !   New research findings !   Latest developments in your field !   Features from fieldwork !   Interesting conference sessions Chance to have your story published on the Future Earth blog!!
  47. 47. Webinar on 30 Sep, 11am CET •  Review some submitted blog stories •  Discuss lessons learned •  How to live blog from a conference Make sure to sign up: bit.ly/popup_blog2

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