How do I create story in my academic writing?

This is a common question that I receive from my clients and workshop participants: how do I create a story from my results? 

And, what does it mean when we say story? 

From my experience, it means that the question is interesting to the reader, the reader is drawn in and wants to know how you approached answering it and what you found out and how it ties together with your research results and with what was previously known. 

The question becomes, how do you take figures and data and turn it into a story? 

Here are five ways of creating story in scientific writing:

  1. A beginning, a middle and an end. This sounds trite, but ensuring that this basic structure exists in your paper or grant will create the sense of a story. We’ve all read papers that don’t seem to have an ending (or the writer ran out of juice) and you can feel how they fall flat. A story needs a beginning, a middle and an end.
  2. In a good story, you care what happens to the characters. In scientific writing, the reader cares about the question that you are asking or the problem that you are solving. The key here is to understand your audience and for the problem to be specifically worth solving to them. If it’s a problem that is universally worth solving, this is how it becomes a top tier journal.
  3. Provide evidence to allow a shift in belief. In story, usually the character has a belief about something or someone or a situation. Through the story, they go through experiences that result in them changing that belief. For scientific writing, it’s introducing what is currently known, providing evidence for a new way of thinking, and creating an shift in belief for your reader. The stronger the belief that they have that you are capable of changing with your results, the more likely it will be in a top tier journal.
  4. Provide the reader with just the right information to allow them to figure it out for themselves without completely spelling it out for them. JJ Abrams calls this giving them 2+2. Don’t give them 4. It’s almost like each sentence is giving them cookie crumbs that is leading them to a question or conclusion and they realize it themselves just before you give it to them in the next sentence. We love figuring things out and our brains love this!
  5. Being clear on your message. All good stories have a thread that is linking all the pieces together to create the bigger tapestry. Your message is what you want them to have taken away from reading the paper or grant. What is the point? And it is important to have it woven through so that they get the clear message by the time they have finished your story.

Creating a story for the reviewer or your paper or grant is key. Humans remember and connect with stories. The more clear your message is and the more compelling your story it is, the easier it will be for the readers to connect with it and want to publish it or fund it. 

If you or someone you know wants support with learning how to create story in their paper or grant writing, pls connect them with me by email at support@melissaeanders.com for a complimentary Discovery Call where we will learn more about what’s happening for them and whether the work that I do is a good fit for them. 

Until next time!

Melissa 

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