Patrick Wareing, freelance science writer at Kolabtree, outlines the difference between research paper writing and science blog writing.
Over the last few decades, the way in which information is shared has transformed tremendously. Moving from traditional print to online media has made it easier for anybody to create and share information, whether that be via blogs or social media.
One of the industries that has seen the biggest shift in communication methods has been the scientific community. Days are gone where research and new information are shared amongst experts solely through research papers and journals, to mass online media where anybody can share data, draw conclusions or convey their own opinion.
Saying that, I want to discuss how sharing scientific knowledge via peer-reviewed journals and blog posts compare and contrast, and how scientists can convert their ‘traditional’ content to a mass audience.
What is a peer-reviewed article?
A peer reviewed article is a formal article that details cutting-edge scientific research written up by one or more scientists. For these articles to be considered for journal publication, an editor will review the article and send it out to scientists with similar expertise, to ensure quality data that meets high scientific standards before publishing.
What is a blog post?
Blog is the short term form of ‘weblog’. Blogs typically started off as online diary-style content, but have since evolved to include a wider range of content forms, including short and long-form articles, usually written in an informal or conversational style. Regardless whether the topic is scientific or not, the structure generally stays consistent.
Whilst both might seem fairly obvious definitions, I have included them to clearly compare styles and formats in the sections below.
In this article, I will discuss how you – either as a scientist or for a business – can convert journal articles into web-friendly content for all.
One of the biggest variations between the two publishing formats is the audience you write for.
Journals are highly-specialised publications that are shared amongst experts in their field, tending to use highly technical jargon and specialised acronyms.
Scientific blogs on the other hand, tend to be more relaxed in style and are written to attract and explain to a much wider, less informed audience. Science blogs are popularly used by scientists to share thoughts about their research, discuss topics of interest, advocate for causes like better funding or policies, or to provide advice to younger scientists. Science blog writing draws from reliable, peer-reviewed sources and simplifies the content for a wider audience.
Knowing what the limitations are your target audience are is crucial for this to succeed. Ensure that when it comes to converting journals to blogs posts, that highly specialised and technical topics are re-written to suit your new audience, without losing the rigour that science deserves,
Closely related to the your audience needs, is the way in which they understand the content in your blog posts.
Content in journals are usually restricted to text, technical graphs and charts. Data is usually restricted to complex formats that only make sense to experts; consider a chromatogram for example.
Science blogs are written in an informal manner that uses additional media and other elements to keep the content engaging and exciting throughout. Not only should your written content refrain from using technical jargon or complex sentence structures, but making the most of elements such as images, video or infographics is highly advantageous.
But just because your content contains more images or videos or whatever you choose to use, doesn’t mean that the quality should drop. Consider creating (or outsourcing) your own graphical content that supplements the text, rather than re-using low quality or relevancy content from another source.
Writing a scientific article usually follows a rigorous structure; an abstract, introduction, method, analysis, discussion and conclusion. All scientists are trained to this standard to ensure consistency, regardless of the language or discipline they are writing for.
Blogs couldn’t be more different. The informal nature of science blogging means you have total flexibility to structure content as you wish. Adding other media – as mentioned in the previous section – means that you can increase engagement and include a host of external resources.
Regardless of this, content should always be well-structured. Consider using an introduction to explain what you are going to talk about, the main body of text to explain the concept and then a final section to recap what you have written about, why it is important and where readers can go to learn more.
When scientists are writing about a topic, the topic they are writing about is usually particularly niche which makes the potential audience size incredibly small. Most of the time, researchers will know each other in a particular field which makes it easy for content to be shared via word-of-mouth or via particular journals.
With blog posts hosted on websites, there is suddenly a much larger potential audience, which means increased online competition.
One of the ways that you can turn scientific journals into popular blog posts that can be found on the internet, is by including scientific keywords. Keywords are an aspect of SEO (search engine optimization) which is used by writers wanting to be found on the internet through search engines.
This means that relevant keywords related to your blog content should be included within the article, in particular, the blog title and throughout the headers. Although SEO is not difficult to learn, having a writer with experience researching and writing for relevant keywords will ensure that your blog content will reach a wider audience in the long term.
Read also: How to hire a freelance scientific writer
Plagiarism & Fact Checking
Scientific journal papers are called peer-reviewed articles for a reason; they are checked by other scientists to make sure they are scientifically sound, using relevant data, references and come to realistic conclusions.
One of the negative preconceptions that blogs get associated with is the credibility and validity of data. This doesn’t mean that all blog posts are spreading fake news, but something to be aware of.
Saying this, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to use scientific journals as references. But anytime you cite external data or media, ensure they are high quality and reference the source of the data. You can also consult a scientific expert to get your content verified and fact-checked. This is especially important for medical content, which is now governed by Google’s Medic update and E-A-T guidelines.
Make sure that the writer of your science blog is not plagiarising content from elsewhere on the web to ensure credibility throughout. If you are rewriting your own content, this shouldn’t be an issue, but if you are using a freelance writer, using a tool like Copyscape is an affordable way to check you are paying for original content.
Credibility of new scientific journals is often attributed to the authors or the research group that published the content. After all, if authors have published multiple articles around the same topic, they tend to add more authority to the subject matter.
Blogs can be written by anybody and they are not always attributed to a specific writer. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this, adding author details to blog posts will help with credibility of the topic they are writing about.
Having an author include a short bio at the beginning or end of a post will instantly demonstrate their scientific knowledge and experience. If you are not a subject matter expert in the blog post you are wanting to write, considering hiring somebody that is, and is willing to have your content attributed to them.
Although I’ve compared journals and blog posts throughout this article, the two don’t need to be mutually exclusive. There are ways in which you can incorporate the two different content styles to produce high quality content.
Converting real, published peer-reviewed journals into a blog style has many benefits.
Firstly, rewriting these articles into a blog-friendly format makes it easier for the layperson to read and understand. This can be done many ways, with examples including using less technical jargon, explaining complex concepts thoroughly or presenting data in a highly visual and exciting way.
Secondly, if you are writing a blog post from scratch, approaching a blog post using your scientific writing experience can help produce top quality content. Having a clear structure; an introduction, method, analysis, conclusion section etc, makes content easy to read and understand. Using proper, regulated references throughout adds credibility and demonstrates quality to your writing.
Neither writing format will be disappearing anytime soon, but if you are aware of the differences and similarities, you can use your knowledge of both to create content that is high quality, informative and exciting to read.
Need help communicating scientific information in the form of a blog post? Contact freelance scientific writers on Kolabtree and get quotes for free.
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Patrick Wareing is a UK based digital marketer specialising in life science marketing. He spent 5 years working as an analytical and formulation chemist, before making the career change into a digital marketing role. With experience in companies like Unilever and Reckitt Benckiser, he helps companies with science blogging and SEO content writing. He writes about science on his personal website.
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