What Does a Science Writer Do? With Duties, Skills, and Tips
Updated November 25, 2022
Writers of scientific material are journalists and professionals who develop, research, and write articles that communicate scientific terms and findings to readers. They use various skills to relate scientific concepts to recent world events and make engaging connections between scientific terms. Learning about the responsibilities of scientific writers and their necessary skills can help you prepare for a career in this discipline. In this article, we discuss what a science writer does, outline their duties and skills, explore their qualifications, and provide tips to help you become one.
What does a science writer do?
A science writer researches to make reports or write articles relating to discoveries and expositions within the scientific field. Those who specialize in this form of writing work in various environments, depending on their interests. For example, they might work as investigative journalists or build a career in academia. Their work environment also dictates the form of writing they focus on, such as articles, brochures, press releases, journals, and web content.
Duties of a scientific writer
Here are some of the primary duties and responsibilities of this role:
Scientific writers handle a range of scientific terms when preparing their materials for publication. They usually require long periods of research into scientific concepts, theories, and practices. Such work helps them make unique associations between ideas and verify their claims before providing information to an audience. The nature of a scientific writer's tasks also informs the research they conduct. For example, when writing a report detailing a pet's role in their guardian's well-being, writers may conduct research by scheduling and recording various interviews.
The topic a scientific writer chooses to write about, and their publication medium, can lead to other duties the selected medium requires. For example, a writer working on articles for a scientific website is likely to select suitable images and illustrations for their articles as well. They may also be responsible for ensuring that they present their work in an SEO-friendly way to help it rank higher on a search engine. A similar publication in a printed scientific journal would be more formal and complex than the content published on a website.
Fact-checking and revision
Many scientific writers work in academia. Within this environment, it's common for writers to subject their work to peer reviews and expert opinions. Preparing scientific materials for periodicals and journals requires improvements based on corrections and reviews. Writers are responsible for reading articles by contemporaries in similar fields to verify their claims and ensure consistency in facts or references. They also read other materials to identify developments and discoveries within scientific fields and make updates where necessary.
Organizations and individual clients often hire scientific writers to help them explain complex scientific terms in concise articles that audiences can understand. They communicate effectively with their clients by identifying their needs and determining the best approach to a project. During these interactions, they can decide the most suitable research methodology, publication medium, and deadlines.
Participating in events and conferences
Writers use various approaches to remain current with developments in scientific fields. These approaches include reading periodicals and subscribing to scientific media channels. This helps them acquire new knowledge of scientific concepts and their contemporaries' work. Industry-relevant events and conferences also provide networking opportunities with other professionals and prospective clients requiring scientific writing services.
Skills for scientific writers
Here are some skills you can develop to excel as a scientific writer:
While science writers typically use their written skills in this role, they can also relay and interpret information through verbal and nonverbal means. Your writing skills influence your ability to connect with audiences when explaining complex scientific terms and concepts. You also use communication skills during negotiations with clients to express your understanding of a project's requirements.
Critical thinking allows you to make logical deductions and connections between concepts. One trait of scientific writing is forming theories using unbiased inferences. Applying such skills to your writing helps you make clear deductions and valid claims. You can also use these skills to determine the best approach to a subject or the most effective way to present information to an audience. Critical thinking skills also help you identify novel connections between scientific concepts and real-world occurrences, which results in more engaging writing.
Research is an important part of good scientific writing. The depth of your research and the methods you use help enrich your work and provide unique perspectives. The role of research in scientific writing makes it important to have strong research skills to help identify and analyze information correctly. You may use a strict outline of questions and sources or an organic approach that relies on your curiosity.
Technical knowledge as a scientific writer relates to scientific terms, concepts, histories, and applications. You can apply this knowledge in various ways, depending on the requirements of a project or your chosen specialization. For example, you may have technical knowledge of biology, aeronautics, physics, and epidemiology. Specializing in one of these disciplines can also lead to deeper technical understanding. For example, you might broaden your technical knowledge of biology by specializing in marine biology.
Qualifications for scientific writers
Here are the typical qualifications you can pursue to become a scientific writer:
You may require a relevant degree in a specific stream of science, engineering, or a related field. This equips you with the technical proficiency to understand and write about scientific concepts. You can also strengthen your qualifications by combining an undergraduate degree in science with communications, writing, and journalism courses. You could then combine science-related courses to develop their proficiency.
While both an undergraduate and graduate-level education can contribute significantly to technical knowledge, acquiring experience is important to establish a career. Some internships may be available at academic and publishing organizations that you can pursue during your studies. They can also build experience by establishing a blog to publish articles that seek feedback to make improvements.
Tips for becoming a scientific writer
Consider these tips to establish your career as a scientific writer:
Select a specialty and career path
Various fields and opportunities are available to scientific writers, and deciding on a field that suits your interests is important. Your field of interest is the area of science where you aim to acquire your greatest technical knowledge. In contrast, your career path refers to how you establish a professional route within your field of interest. For example, you could consider combining a communications or journalism course with a science-related discipline. You could also choose to complement your journalism degree with years of experience in a scientific field.
Writing is a skill that benefits from consistent practice. For example, writing articles of varying lengths on different subjects can improve how you express yourself and test readers' opinions. You can also practise writing a few paragraphs on each new scientific concept you learn to demonstrate your understanding of the subject. Another helpful tip is writing about ideas at varying levels of technicality. This exercise can help you adapt to the demands of an academic journal or a blog.
Pursue additional knowledge
Specialized knowledge is a significant component of writing scientific materials. Even when you start publishing your writing and acquiring clients, it's helpful to pursue more knowledge to improve your skills. This can help you identify trends, new developments, and scientific discoveries. You might also consider taking additional courses or interacting with mentors and colleagues to improve your skills. For example, an online class could help you improve your editing skills.
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