Telling Science Stories-Public Communication for Researchers - Carnegie Mellon University

Telling Science Stories

Mark Roth
Ann Gibbons


Mark Roth (bio) and Ann Gibbons (bio)
October 11, 2012

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 PDFhandout on the storytelling techniques of Radiolab and journalists , which includes a more detailed explanation of what we discussed in the workshop.

Storytelling techniques of Radiolab

Storytelling techniques of Radiolab

We didn't get to this one, but in Audio clipanother 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."

Storytelling techniques of journalists

  • Study: storytelling significantly changes our brains and behavior (Videoanimation, 5:56 long).
  • Ann Gibbons' article on revealing the Neandertal genome published in PDFScience 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 PDFfact 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.

Seminar Video