One of the generic learning outcomes to be achieved by science students at Lund University is the ability to communicate science also to a non-specialist audience. In this report we analyze popular science papers written by undergraduate students of biology. The aim is to investigate the quality of the observed learning outcomes of a course in communicating with the general public. Through textual analysis we have studied four issues: how the papers are composed, how they appeal to the reader, how they are suited for the situation and for the reader, and how formally correct they are. The purpose of the report is to identify the strengths and the weaknesses of students’ popular writing. Our results show that the students generally succeed in writing a catching title and an interesting introduction, whereas the following parts in many cases tend to have a more scientific approach. It is obvious that the students are not familiar enough with the popular science genre. Besides a sometimes unreflected use of technical terms most students have difficulties in changing perspectives, and in arguing the importance and relevance of their findings. Based on our results we suggest a model for integrated communication training, where different tasks accompanied by feedback from fellow students or teachers, will help students to make progress in their communication skills. We discuss the relationship between scientific and popular science writing, and the potential of communication as a didactic tool. Our concluding remark is that communication is an underestimated vehicle for learning in the scientific disciplines, and that popular science writing would add significant value to the process of learning how to argue scientific claims.
Original languageSwedish
PublisherLärande Lund
Number of pages60
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Publication series

NameLärande Lund, rapport
ISSN (Print)1652-5752

Bibliographical note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015.
The record was previously connected to the following departments: Science (000006100), Swedish (015011001)

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Languages and Literature

Free keywords

  • SoTL
  • popular writing
  • popular science
  • communicative training

Cite this