Writing for a science blog when you’re an undergraduate may sound pointless and time consuming. You already have enough to keep you busy with labs, and lectures. Just getting to the end of the semester is an achievement! Besides, you haven’t even graduated yet. Why would anyone be interested in what you have to say?
Blog Writing Skills = CV Gold
You’re already aware that to land the job you want, you need to demonstrate skills that employers want to see and that means getting exposure to as many forms of communication as you possibly can. As a scientist, the ability to communicate with different audiences is CV gold. The key words here are ‘different audiences’. You’ll have loads of opportunities during your degree to develop your writing skills through lab reports and literature reviews – these are formal writing styles, written passively for scientists. Communicating effectively in an informal setting is something you might not have any experience of yet. And if you’re interested in learning how to do this, then writing science blog articles for KirsopLabs is a fantastic opportunity.
It’s completely realistic to assume that being able to communicate online will become an expected part of learning and communicating science. So why not start now?
So You Think You Don’t Have Experience?
What would you tell a school leaver or 1st, 2nd……final year student if you had to give advice on one aspect of your academic experience? How to pass 1st year labs in 5 easy steps? How to stay sane during exam revision and come out the other end smiling? Easy – if you’ve done it, you can write about it. If you’ve completed at least one term of uni you can bet that you’re able to give advice about stuff you didn’t even realise.
How to Become a KirsopLabs Student Author
If you’re an undergraduate in chemistry, you already meet the criteria. You don’t need experience in writing or web based publishing. That’s what we’ll teach you. You don’t need to know anything about how this site works under the hood. As a KirsopLabs Student Author, you’ll be given training in how to write for the web and we’ll show you how to post your own work on the website. The people reading your articles will be your fellow undergraduates – students that can relate to your experiences and your point of view. You already have plenty of experience of being an undergraduate; the things you have learned so far in your degree can be hugely useful to your classmates and students in other years.
What Should the Articles be About?
So to get started, there are different types of articles that can be submitted. You can write about anything at all, as long as it’s relevant to chemistry undergraduates.
Informative Articles – these can give advice on how to perform things like:
- Lab Techniques (HPLC, Flash Photolysis, etc.)
- Skills (how to write a good lab report, tips for giving good presentations, etc.)
- ‘How To’ Guides – simple and short articles to explain ‘How To’ carry out a lab procedure, for example.
You’ll see some examples of articles of this type on the site. When trying to decide what you can contribute, think about what you would find helpful to read. If you spent hours getting a column to run, your article can give other students a chance to get it right first time. If you’ve just finished a lab report and found that you now understand how to derive an equation or a mechanism that you previously struggled with, other students will find that information useful too.
Personal Articles – these are about experiences and opinions, and not necessarily factual or information based:
- With hindsight, was there something you could have done better last year? Why not write about it for students in the year below? If you would have benefited from knowing it, someone else will benefit now.
- Do you have any advice for students who may be struggling with personal problems or academic workload? Sharing how you worked through things can be very beneficial for others in the same situation. There’s never just one student with a one-off worry.
Your experiences and advice, written appropriately, are completely valid and may be of great help to other students. You could even write about the research taking place in the research group you are doing a project with. If you took time to learn something, others will be interested in what you have to say.
‘Science Blog’ is a Relative Term
Of course, communicating science doesn’t begin and end with technical articles telling you how to perform and interpret an IR spectrum. Over the last decade science communication has been forever changed by how we use the internet. You may have been aware of the hashtag #overlyhonestmethods on Twitter, where scientists from a wide variety of fields poked fun at how research is conducted. Your style might be completely different, and that is a fantastic thing. Defining something as a science blog is tricky, and it can be argued that the term encompasses…
Not Exactly Rocket Science This is a blog run by Ed Yong, a inspirational and highly successful young science writer. His blog takes interesting current research and discusses it in a way that’s accessible to everyone.
Bitesize Bio An online magazine that started life as a one-man-band lab blog, that’s now a fully fledged company and posts on everything from the latest research in cell and molecular biology, to how to get ahead in the field.
xkcd – A fantastic site that describes itself as ‘a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language’, written by Randall Monroe.
Minute Physics – This YouTube channel uses animated videos to explain concepts in physics. Conveniently, Minute Physics has just posted a video on favourite science blogs. Take a look and get a feel for what’s out there.
…and everything in between. Feel free to mention your favourite sites in the comments section.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
Of course, there are rules. Don’t be derogatory or insulting about other students, staff or the university. Don’t complain about the subject. Don’t grumble about how many lectures you have to attend. Not only is this incredibly unprofessional, but damaging to your reputation. Would you want to hire someone who doesn’t like chemistry, and who moans about the people they work with?
How Will I know If My Writing Is Good Enough?
So you’ve written your article, and you’re concerned that it won’t be appropriate or written to the right standard? That’s what the editorial team at KirsopLabs is here for. You aren’t expected to be confident in your writing at first, and it’s a sure thing that your first few articles will need tweaking, but that’s what learning a new skill is all about. Anything you send in to the website will be reviewed, edited and proofread by an editor, and feedback will always be given to you. Feel free to ask for advice at any time and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
If you’re looking for more writing opportunities, The Student newspaper is always looking for science writers. They have a great science and environment section, and there are loads of ways to get involved. Visit www.studentnewspaper.org for more details.