Week 2: Communicate with stories

Today we focused on the power of narrative for communicating science. We practiced telling our own stories, and reflected on what made those stories memorable. What emotions did they engage? This exercise was inspired by an online mini course by Khan Academy and Pixar: Art of Storytelling.

We then dissected stories into at least 4 parts (notes thanks to the Engage series at University of Washington):
a) Setup: a quick(!!) chance to establish the situation and the protagonist’s goal
b) Complicating action: something that takes us in a new direction
c) Development: often includes struggle, suspense, action, or humor
d) Climax: learn whether the goal was achieved

We watched a video by SciShow: Does meditation affect your brain? and picked out the four elements of a story even in this short 5-minute video.

As you work on your blog posts that describe Cognitive Science research, make sure you are thinking about the research you’re writing about as a story. How can you portray the 4 story elements to the reader?

Students: Do you think presenting science as a story is effective? Why or why not? What are the challenges for translating scientific research into stories?

Here are the slides from this week.

Recent work shows that narratives are not only helpful for communicating science outside academia, but may also be helpful for academic papers. Recent research shows that scientific papers on climate change that included more narrative elements were cited more than those that were less story-like (remember – citations are one of the largest signs of success in academia!). Here’s a post I wrote about this work.

Featured Image: Reading a book at the beach by Simon Cocks. CC BY


Author: Rose Hendricks

I'm a PhD Candidate in Cognitive Science at UC San Diego. I work to better understand how metaphor shapes the way we perceive and think about the world.

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