A Science Communication Intervention: Audience and Framing

I am currently intervening in an undergraduate-level science course. Along with the basic science, students will learn how to communicate their ideas and perspectives effectively. Here’s what we are discussing this week: Audience and Framing.


We all have a unique perspective, and everything your audience sees and hears is filtered through their perspective, regardless of what you intended to communicate.

The only link between you and the reader is the sentence you’re making. There’s no sign of your intention apart from the sentences themselves, And every sentence has its own motives, its own commitments, Quite apart from yours.

[ Several Short Sentences About Writing – Klinkenborg (2012) ]

Lesson 1: Consider Your Audience

Before you write, consider your audience’s perspective. For example, what may be the perspectives of a science student, their parent, and their future employer?

Science Student Parent Employer
What do they value?

 

Learning about interesting and useful science Their child earning a degree that will give them a prosperous future Having a competent applicant pool, students learning applicable skills
What are their concerns?

 

Daily schedules, mental stress, unclear futures, grades Child’s health and happiness, their relationship The success of their business and bottom line
What are their preconceived notions?

 

Their degree will be useful to their career, their professors are experts in the field The degree will be useful to their child’s career, the professors don’t care enough about their children Applicants generally don’t learn broad applicable skills like communication

Lesson 2: Frame Your Writing

After you’ve considered your audience, frame your writing to fit their perspective. Do this both in what you say and how you say it.

What to say: How to say it:
  • Discuss your audience’s values and concerns. Recognize that their values and concerns may be different from your own.
  • Relate what you are writing to your audience’s life.
  • Use jargon that your audience is familiar with.
  • Explain the science at the level your audience understands and values.
  • Explain your motivation at the level your audience understands and values.

For example, if I wanted to explain why these lessons are important:

Student: Why are these lessons important?

Me: By working through this syllabus, you will gain valuable writing skills that will help you market yourself to get the job you want in less time and with less stress. You will also learn to better communicate with your friends, family, and colleagues so that they understand and appreciate what you have to say.

Student’s Parent: Why are these lessons important?

Me: Your child will gain communication skills that will help them in their future careers, from applying for the job to negotiating a raise and retirement plan.

Student’s Future Employer: Why are these lessons important?

Me: Your future applicants will be able to better communicate with you, their fellow employees, and to your customer. This will increase your yield by decreasing the time needed to explain concepts as well as stimulate valuable discussion and collaboration within your company.


Assignment

Practice considering your audience when you complete your homework this week. Things to consider:

  • Know who your audience is before you begin writing. This will either be given to you in the prompt or you will be asked to choose your audience.
  • Frame your response around your audience’s perspective. What do they value? How knowledgeable are they of the subject matter?
  • Use jargon strategically. What is your purpose for using jargon with this specific audience? To impress? To educate?

Date

Topic

Week 1 9/26 Overview and Motivation
Week 2 10/3 Sentence Structure
Week 3 10/10 Purpose and Paragraph Structure
Week 4 10/17 Word Choice
Week 5 10/24 Jargon
Week 6 10/31 Demonstration
Week 7 11/7 Audience and Framing
Week 8 11/14 Review

 

 

6 thoughts on “A Science Communication Intervention: Audience and Framing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s