The 411

This workshop is only available on an in-house basis. Email us for pricing and to arrange for delivery of this workshop to your team.

Meet the Instructor

Carolyn Brown

Carolyn Brown

Carolyn Brown is a science and medicine writer and editor with 18 years' experience at Canada's two largest scientific publishers - Canadian Medical Association publications and NRC Research Press.

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You need to communicate science or social science information to the public, whether your audience is policy-makers who need to be aware of current data or knowledge, citizens concerned about the effects of new technologies or policies, or young people with an innate sense of wonder. How do you communicate evidence-based programs, policies or research in a way that your target audience can understand, appreciate and act on?

You may be writing:

Whatever the medium and the message, you need to write effectively about science, evidence and data.

Effective writing situates readers in context to help them understand where the information fits in a broader context. How do these results affect people? How will the policy change the way things are done? It relates often abstract or complex concepts to the real world. And it uses a writing toolbox to convey ideas through metaphor, analogy, visual images, and even humour.

Participants will learn to assess the audience targeted in a communication. They will understand the format of a public summary, media release, and article, and how these differ from scientific or technical communications such as journal articles and abstracts. They will be able to explain scientific or social science concepts in everyday language, and bring ideas to life using the tools of prose. They will situate technical problems in a social context. By the end of the day, participants should be able to craft a clear and explanatory document for the public.



8:45 - 9:15 Introductions and Workshop Overview
9:15 - 10:30 Why Communicate Science or Social Science to the Public?
  • Reasons for writing about science or social science
  • Audiences: who they are, differences among them, targeting an audience
  • Implications for writing: vocabulary, sentence structure and length, grade level
  • Communicating clearly and concisely: the elevator pitch
  • Exercise: choose a current science or social science topic that you wish to write about and make the elevator pitch
10:30 - 10:45 Break
10:45 - 12:00 Formats of Written Communication
  • Various formats and how they are structured
  • Differences between traditional scientific communications (journal articles, abstracts) and public communications (summaries, media releases, articles)
  • Exercise: choose a format and outline how the selected topic would fit this format
Research in Context
  • Explaining how the topic fits: why is the research being done or policy or program being put in place? How will it help? Does it have applications? Does it help us understand something? How will it be used?
  • Exercise: explain the context for the selected topic
12:00 - 1:00 Lunch
1:00 - 2:30 Writing Toolbox
  • Definitions: explaining terms and concepts
  • Metaphors: in addition to explaining what it is, explain what it is like
  • Analogy: comparing to a similar process or concept the public can understand
  • Visual imagery: describing how things happen visually; using diagrams and graphs
  • Language level: plain-language guides, testing vocabulary, grade level checkers
  • Active voice
  • Sentence and paragraph structure and length
  • Exercise: use each of these tools to write about the selected topic
2:30 - 2:45 Break
2:45 - 4:20 Putting it All Together
  • Write a first draft of the selected public communication about the science or social science topic
  • Presentation and feedback
4:20 - 4:30 Wrap-up and Workshop Evaluation