Learning to Tell the Story Behind Scientific Research

by janetkayfetz

Adam Jorge is a first-year graduate student at UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. With undergraduate degrees in philosophy and political science, he has chosen to follow his heart and pursue work in environmental science.

So now he is writing science papers. A lot of them. And the way his new discipline shares ideas through writing is different from what he is used to.

“And to think I thought it would be easy…

I somewhat naively expected a balance between the disciplines, but upon arrival I was greeted with some heavy-handed readings, and some frighteningly scientific assignments.

The facts, figures, stats, definitions, and terminology leave me completely dazed. The content of written work is so different, and I lose my voice somewhere in the data.

Choosing an approach to my writing proved challenging, and I wasn’t sure why. This writing class revealed something very important about my writing style: My tone is my springboard—all of my work begins with my tone selection.

Tone and information go hand in hand; while data/information is almost self-developing, tone comes with the development of voice—my voice just so happened to be inhibited by a lack of experience interpreting the science.

But my favorite part of this class has been learning to tell the story behind scientific research.

Telling the story in philosophy, political science and public policy comes naturally; ideas within social sciences tend to be horizontal and sequential, as opposed to the vertical integration I see in the sciences.

Prior to this class, I assumed that scientific literature simply reports observations. Uncovering the words hidden in data, the importance of research, and the significance of implications now helps me weave the story behind the science.

Finding ways to layer and stack the depths of information on top of one another provides me with a new method for story building:

Telling a scientific story is less like a map, which directs a reader from one destination to another; it is instead more like building a skyscraper, where the reader navigates each floor, which both stands on its own and is dependent upon the floor beneath.”

Thank you Adam for these wonderful insights!