Telling Science Stories
How do you make scientific ideas compelling? Even if your message is true and important, it's hard to reach a general audience with facts alone. Stories are memorable – stories have the power to captivate and inspire high school students, busy parents, and members of Congress. In this workshop with professional science journalists we learned and practiced how to compose a narrative about discovery.
Materials and handouts
We've compiled a handout on the storytelling techniques of Radiolab and journalists , which includes a more detailed explanation of what we discussed in the workshop.
- Audio example: The Haber process, from a Radiolab segment on Fritz Haber.
- Audio example: Viral invasion, from Radiolab's A War We Need.
- Robert Krulwich's commencement address to Caltech: Tell Me a Story (transcript).
We didn't get to this one, but in another clip they describe an experiment in mouse behavior in great detail from the show about words. You can find the transcript here; search for the first mention of "Fernyhough."
- Study: storytelling significantly changes our brains and behavior (animation, 5:56 long).
- Ann Gibbons' article on revealing the Neandertal genome published in Science compared to her article on the same topic in Slate.
- Mark Roth's article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on facial abnormalities.
- Ann's spectrum of media: how much detail should you include? Depends on where it's being published. Write with a specific audience in mind – that will dictate your content.
Practice constructing a story
We started with a poorly written fact sheet on four topics: GPS, nuclear power, how the internet affects our brain, how DNA was discovered. Small groups turned these into stories, using the techniques we came up with.