Science and the Art of Storytelling

When I outline potential manuscripts to describe and discuss the research I’m doing, I refer to each study as a “story”. Indeed, every research article is simply a narrative. The longer I’m in science, the more obvious it is that the truly successful researchers are those who tell good stories. Whether it be written or orally presented, the ability to communicate complex and detailed research projects in both an informative and entertaining manner is what separates good scientists from great scientists. This article in the current issue of The Scientist caught my eye today:

Scientists write their papers in the same three-act structure that novelists and filmmakers use to tell their stories. The standard format of a scientific research paper consists of an Introduction (Act I, in which the question is presented); Methods and Results (Act II, in which the question is explored); and Discussion (Act III, in which the question is answered). Thesis, antithesis, synthesis–same, same.

via Tell Me A Story of Science: The Scientist [2009-10-01].

The art of storytelling is likely the principal reason why science journalists are successful at communicating research to the public while scientists often fall short. Fundamentally, two skills are critical for researchers: doing good science and explaining good science. It leads one to wonder why scientific training doesn’t place greater emphasis on writing and communication skills.

Walter Jessen is a digital strategist, writer, web developer and data scientist. You can typically find him behind the screen something with an internet connection.

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