An Engaging Translation

Purpose: Peer-reviewed journal articles enable researchers to communicate new developments with other scientists. Accordingly, these articles are filled with terms, processes, concepts, and images that are confusing, intimidating, and inaccessible to many audiences, especially the public. The goal of this assignment is to translate instances of complexity within a peer-reviewed journal article, in order to educate the public with accurate, accessible, and engaging explanations.

In this assignment you will translate two items of complexity—an item of complexity could be any term, concept, procedure, or piece of equipment referenced within your selected journal article. You may even choose to translate a term that seems familiar (e.g. “autonomous”), but becomes unfamiliar or assumes a different meaning in the context of a particular scientific field.

Since you are selecting two items of complexity from anywhere within a single peer-reviewed journal article (e.g. one item could be from the Methods section, another item from the Results section of the article), the text you produce for this assignment does not need to be a single cohesive article. Instead, your document will likely be two individual articles—one for each item. This collection of explanations simulates the critical process of self-education during the research stage of science writing. Moreover, this assignment encourages you to begin thinking of how you might translate complex information for the public.

Tips and Additional Guidelines: Rather than write single-sentence definitions or bulleted lists of information in each section, craft a narrative for each item that includes the following:

  • Utilize metaphor to enhance your reader’s interest and understanding of a key scientific concept, term, procedure, or piece of equipment;
  • Situate the item in a larger context (i.e. the “real” world or field beyond the specific paper); and
  • Help the reader follow the logic of your explanations with clear organization and transitions.

Working with Outside Sources: In order to understand the two complex items in the peer-reviewed journal article, you will need to conduct background research. To be transparent and trustworthy with your audience, your text must include in-text citations for all ideas and information that you gathered from outside sources, as well as a Works Cited list at the end of the document. These citations will allow your classmates and me to see the intellectual paths you took in your quest to understand the items described in your text. Note: Wikipedia may be a useful starting place, but you’ll need to dig into the actual sources that are referenced within the Wikipedia article to evaluate their trustworthiness, as well as to learn more about the items you’ve selected.

Audience: You are writing for the general public. Your readers are unfamiliar with the terms and subject area being reported. Accordingly, your writing should be lay-friendly, engaging, and communicate the meaning of the information that you report. Why should your audience be interested in your items?

Form: State the full journal article title and citation information at the top of the document. The text can then be divided into two numbered sections, one for each item of complexity (e.g. “1. Microbial reduction”).

Upload the document on the class website in the following format:

  • MS Word (.doc) or Adobe (.pdf)
  • 1”X1” margins
  • Size 12 Times New Roman font
  • Single-spaced text
  • 700-900 words total (1.25-1.75pgs, single-spaced)
  • In-text citations and a Works Cited list
  • Page numbers

Helpful Tips:

  • Review your notes from the library session so that you can find and access a peer-reviewed article through the online databases.
  • Read articles and press releases of recently published studies to see how others have explained complex terms and concepts.
  • Write a narrative rather than a list of facts for each term you define.
  • Remember that you cannot share all of the information you learn with the reader, so consider what you would need to know as a reader to grasp each item of complexity.
  • Before you submit your draft, re-read your writing aloud to detect ideas that need to be tightened and/or reorganized for clarity.

Due Dates:

  1. Upload your draft before class on Session 10.
  2. Peer-review workshop will be held on Session 11.
  3. Upload your revised text before class on Session 13.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2016
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments
Instructor Insights