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If Scientists Wrote Like Journalists

Posted in Publishing, and Writing

Everybody loves a story, and scientists are no exception. When working with young scientists, it is wonderful to witness when someone stops thinking of their papers as tabulations of results and starts thinking in terms of stories. Yes, there is a standard format for writing research papers which seems cold and dry, emphasizing clarity over story. Abstract. Introduction. Methods. Results. Discussion.

But really compelling research articles can read a bit like detective stories, transcending the limits of the research journal format. Foreshadowing, elements of suspense, the surprising ending — they can all be built into the scientific story. There is something deeply satisfying, even primal, about sharing a story of discovery.

As an editor at Science once told a senior author, “Surprise me.”
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