To organize a lay language research article include:
- Headline or Title – Catch the reader’s eye.
- Lead sentence – Use a question or a provocative statement.
- State the facts – Keep it simple, clear, concise, and easily understood.
- Tell why those facts are important – Who else says so? What are the immediate and long term consequences?
- Describe a personal, social, or economic benefit – Answer the unspoken question in every reader’s mind, “SO WHAT?”
- Summarize – Wrap it up.
- Close with a memorable statement.
Magazines, newspapers, newsletters, web pages, and even letters to the editor are all ways to communicate to the general public the facts and benefits of addiction research. Editors and publishers of these publications are always open to articles, news releases, and opinion/editorial pieces of interest to their readership. Very few newspapers have a full time science writer so they depend on solicitations from outside sources.(There are approximately 1800 daily newspapers in the U.S., but only about 50 have full time science writers.) The interest is there – science museums and related facilities draw 150 million visitors a year – more than baseball, football, basketball, and Disney World combined. The average person may think he or she does not have an interest in addiction research, but if your work is of value there are plenty of readers who would like to know more about what you do.
Getting into print is a matter of approaching the right person and that person is usually the editor. Somewhere within every publication is the masthead that lists the name and contact information for submission of articles, news releases, or letters to the editor. If your piece is short, submit the entire work. If it will require several columns it is best to submit a brief proposal stating the highlights of the piece and reasons why that particular publication’s readership would be interested. Follow up with a phone call to be sure your correspondence has reached the right hands. Keep in mind that you are not trying to publish the great American novel. Editors of print publications are hungry for material and are likely to accept any interesting, well written submission.
Writing for Lay Readers
Considering the level of technological and scientific advancement in the U.S., one would expect a fairly high level of scientific knowledge among the general population. Yet, in today’s age of specialization, it is possible for students to complete even higher education without much in the way of science education. Thus it is best to assume that your readers are intelligent but not necessarily knowledgeable about science in general, and addiction research in particular. The art of effective writing for the print media has moved toward a much less formal, almost conversational style. Thus, the longstanding guide to speakers, ‘tell ’em what you’re going to tell ‘em, tell ‘em, and then tell ‘em what you told ‘em” is still a basic outline for an effective written piece.
Organizing a Lay Research Article
Nowadays an effective written piece closely parallels the pattern you would use to tell the story verbally. Here is an outline used by professional news writers.
- Headline or Title – Catch the reader’s eye. All American Beers Are Not Equal
- Lead sentence – Can be a question or a provocative statement. Despite the increase in light beer sales, there has been a general increase in the overall strength of U.S. beer over the past 5 years.
- State the facts – Keep it simple, clear, concise, and easily understood. Don’t overuse statistics. Instead employ quotes, similes, metaphors and other familiar examples. Americans are used to checking the calories, fat and other characteristics for the food they purchase but how many check the alcohol content of their beverage?
- Tell why those facts are important – Who else says so? What are the immediate and long term consequences? – Weight control, avoiding DUI, staying within one’s known limits, usefulness in public policy making, laws, etc.
- Describe a personal, social, or economic benefit – Answer the unspoken question in every reader’s mind, “SO WHAT?” Why is this information important to them, their families, profession, and society?
- Summarize – Wrap it up. Don’t leave your reader hanging. Restate your main points succinctly.
- Close with a memorable statement. “As someone once said, knowing what was in your drink can keep you out of the clink”.
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