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How to write an article for Spin.

Your a budding journalist or a student with some cool dissertations and papers and you would like to see them published? Welcome on board! Yeah, it is that simple to join the editorial team, but it’s not that easy to actually write an article. So here’s some guidelines to get you starting. 

1. Choose a subject

Look! Inspiration is everywhere, and so is science. A movie, a hot bioethics debate on TV, a question that popped in your mind when you brushed your teeth this morning, an interesting student Phd project you heard about at the university…

The idea is not to repeat what other articles have already said, but to add an interesting twist to the subject: communicate it in a simpler way for a broader audience, propose your personal analysis on a subject, give a different angle with an interview, a relevant parallel etc.

If you’re a student at the CRI, it offers many writing opportunity: check the conferences happening at the CRI, the visiting professors, any news related to the open lab projects, gamelier, incubator etc.

2. Collect information about the subject you choose

Rule n°1: check facts.

Rule n°2: check facts.

Rule n°3: check… Ok, you got it. Read articles from different sources, have a critical mind, and do NOT consider that a scientist is, by nature, a reliable source.

3. Choose a tone

Do not be afraid to use the “I”, and to use a friendly tone: you can tell personal anecdotes and tell good tales, but you must always do it in a smart way and with a purpose.

At Spin we encourage personal opinion and controversial subjects. But do CHECK FACTS.

Spin’s tip : Write as if your audience has no clue what your talking about but without being condescending.

4. Organize your article

Typically, if you write for Spin, your article must be organized as followed:

1. A picture: You must illustrate your article, but make sure that the picture you intend to use is copy-right free. Use the filter in your google image search tool, or a library such as this one: https://www.flickr.com/photos/britishlibrary/. If you have some artistic skills, you can even draw, take a picture etc.

2. A title: catchy and teasing, but not misleading. Do not exaggerate or use emphatic words, however tempting it is 😉

3. A standfirst: between 5 and 8 lines that capture the reader’s attention.

4. Lead: with the lead, your aim is to attract the reader’s attention, give him the core idea of the article and induce him to read more. You can either engage the reader immediately (avoid the typical “have you ever wondered…”), tell an anecdote, describe a recent event or reflexion, or a quotation.

5. Core

Your text can be divided in paragraphs of few sentences. Use crisp, short sentences and keywords,  do not try to say everything but focus on some key concepts.

The scientific jargon problem: explain 3 scientific concepts maximum per article, and remember that this is an article, not a scientific paper!  You may use specific words, but make sure that you define them clearly (and not by using other incomprehensible words). The use of metaphors and analogies is necessary, but it must be done with care.

Be careful with:

  • Numbers. Choosing to say “50% of the people assume that” when you are talking about 5 people out of 10 is mathematically correct, but misleading.
  • Gender. 70% of the experts in the media are men. Pay attention to gender equity when choosing the people you interview, quoting someone etc.

Ending:

The ending often refer to the lead, summarize the points developed in the article, and widen the subject, or give precise relevant information such as a link to a website.

After my first draft…

Edit, edit, edit. Remember this rule: there is ALWAYS an unnecessary word you can get rid of.

Written by Margaux Calon

Margaux graduated in History of Innovation at Paris IV-La Sorbonne and defended a master research thesis on “Science popularisation in the press for children, 1830 – 1930”. She travelled around the world of science communication as an intern for a year before entering a MSC Science Communication at Imperial College London. She’s now a community manager and science communication officer at the CRI.

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