In a bid to explain writing conventions for different audiences to students

I came across this really interesting article from MIT which featured a pertinent example of the impact of cutting edge research, experimentation and serendipity. This discovery could lead to cost-effective and environmentally friendlier metal-production systems than those involved in most traditional metal smelting. With this process, researchers paved the way for the potential fabrication of more abundant and economically important metals such as copper and nickel.

When I read the actual paper in nature communications  and a few other science-related but not always scientific websites, I noticed stark differences between the writing style, wording, structure, argumentation and evidence.

In a bid to introduce fine nuances between academic and journalistic writing i.e. writing for different audiences, I put together a selection of articles on the same topic and asked my students to find similarities and differences. Then, I asked them to come up with “guidelines” or “rules” regarding academic/scientific writing. Following contentious discussions of “do’s and don’ts”, I then asked them to rank their rules in terms of importance, which created havoc among them as they could never reach consensus.

It worked out to be a great but time-consuming activity that enhanced not just students’ noticing skills but critical thinking. At the end of the lesson, students had to write a critical comparison of the scientific and the not-so-scientific articles.