Reading science stories

Questions to ask yourself when reading science stories:

(adapted from Carol Rogers, University of Maryland; Don Gibb, Ryerson Polytechnic; and B. Kovach and T. Rosensteil, authors of Blur)

Basics: Who where when why how what is the story about?

Lead (Lede): How does the story begin? Does the lead/lede/opening paragraph contain too much detail? Is it too vague, too routine or cliched? Is the lead buried? Is it adequately supported by the rest of the story?

Appeal: What attracted you to the story?

Audience: Who is the intended or presumed audience for the story?

News aspect: Where did the story originate (research paper, meeting, press release, etc.)? What is the news hook or angle of the story?

Explanation: Did the reporter explain complex concepts? How (through use of analogies, metaphor, etc.)? Is there too much explanation, or too little? Is the story easy to understand (including presence or absence of jargon and graphics)?

Source material: Who or what are the sources? Are sources identified (are you able to access them yourself?) Are there quotes? Are quotes too long or ineffective? Do the quotes add “voice” to the story?

Validity: What evidence is presented and how was it tested or vetted? What might be an alternative explanation or understanding?

Supplementary media: Does the story contain or link to visuals, blogs, podcasting, etc. Is the story multi-media?

Detail: Are there too many generalizations (“most” or “many”) and not enough specifics? Does the writer include observational details like sights, sounds, tastes, etc.?

Organization: How is the story structured? How do the paragraphs flow or relate? Does the story have a traditional news (inverted pyramid) structure or a more narrative format?

Context: how does this story relate to what has come before or what might come after?

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