How to write a science blog

#SINTEFblog is the perfect place for SINTEF researchers in all areas to get the attention of potential industry partners, other researchers and those who are interested in new technologies. A blog post is a great way to highlight expertise or draw attention to a published report or scientific article. In this blog you will find some tips on how to write a science blog: Style and content.

Author: Anne Steenstrup-Duch (updated 22 April 2020).

Blogging remains an important channel to communicate with the public. In this era of fake news and disinformation on social media, having our own method of quickly reaching the public with science based information has never been more important.

So, if you work for SINTEF and want to write a blog about your research, there’s no need to delay. All you have to do is follow these easy steps to write a first draft. Don’t worry about perfection! The blog editors will help you add the finishing touches, and of course deal with the technical aspects of getting it published.

Watch this video and see what happened when Alexis Sevault wrote a science blog (In Norwegian).

What should you write?

You tell us! Research results are great, but don’t feel limited to latest news. Other ideas include what it’s like to work in a specific lab, your experience collaborating with another research institute, a research-based opinion piece on a current news story or trending topic, a comment on current international research, etc. If you’ve just published a scientific article, there could be scope for a blog post too.

You could also consider writing something timely. For example, this article on why you shouldn’t burn your Christmas tree in a wood stove performs well every January. This kind of applied science is perfect for the blog. It has mass appeal with the general public but could also appeal to journalists looking for a story, helping to get SINTEF a media mention.

That being said, not every story needs to have mass appeal. Many of our hyper-focused technical blog posts perform very well in search engines. Writing a blog post is a great way to link you and SINTEF with that specific topic to other researchers and potential clients around the world who may be searching for it.

On that note, another great topic is something you’ve searched for in Google, but have been unable to find a good result. Your post could be that result for other people!

How to write a science blog: Picture shows a man searching the internet.
How to write a science blog: Write about something you’ve searched for in google, but have been unable to find a good result. Your post could be that result for other people searching the same keywords. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Writers block? You can find a few tips at the end of this blog.

Who are you writing for? Content and style.

Before you open a blank document, consider who you want to read the post. Deciding this at the start helps you write a post with the most relevant content and in an appropriate style.

For example, if you’re targeting a broad audience, you’ll need to alter your everyday writing style. A good rule of thumb for writing more general text is to aim for a high school comprehension level. That means technical terminology should either be explained (if critical to the story) or a link provided to a readable background article (e.g. Wikipedia). It also means short, simple sentences. This is especially true when writing in English as almost half of our readers do not have English as their first language.

#SINTEFblog is ideal for audiences made up of researchers, scientists and potential clients (technical and management) who have some knowledge of, or interest in, your research topics. So, if you’re looking for some more inspiration, keep in mind our primary target audiences:

  • Potential clients who are interested in our activities and want to know more about our research fields, and how we work.
  • Research scientists and existing clients who have a particular interest in exactly what you are working on. Here, the blog should be written in English, and include a link to a scientific article that will provide a detailed description of your research work.
  • Potential job seekers who are interested in finding out more about how we work.

We are also hoping to reach journalists who are interested in research material, politicians who are looking for examples of high-quality Norwegian research projects, and tech-interested audiences who have a general interest in technology and research.

A science blog is not a scientific publication: It should be about one thing

Don’t approach writing a blog in the same way as a scientific article or a research report. Keep your intended audience in mind throughout the writing process. The biggest difference when writing for #SINTEFblog is in the style.

Blogs should be about one thing, and not a summary of an entire project. Background detail can be summarized in a single sentence and/or linked to, allowing you to quickly move on with the story.

That being said, this is not the same thing as dumbing down the story! Our target audiences are often looking for technical details. There’s no issue with including such detail when it is directly relevant to the story, just consider the audience first.

You can write about project meetings, but focus on something that was presented or discussed rather than the meeting itself.

Writing your draft

There’s no such thing as the perfect blog, so don’t spend hours mulling over a sentence. Get the first draft written and we’ll take a look and help you get it finished.

If you’re not sure how to get started, create a list of bullet points of things you want to cover. Next, turn each of those bullet points into one or two sentences, and you’re halfway there!

While you absolutely don’t need to cover all of these, here are some questions to help you get started:

  • Exactly what is it that you have found out?
  • What methods have you used?
  • Why is this research important, and why should my target audience be interested?
  • What environmental benefits might this research bring?
  • Will this research lead to more sustainable technology?
  • Will it lead to less expensive and/or safer technology?
  • What is your or your group’s contribution to this field internationally?
  • What is needed for this technology to be applied/commercialised?
  • Is this project relevant to others in the industry? Will it enable us to attract new clients and win new projects?

We publish many articles on #SINTEFblog in both English and Norwegian. Stories of EU & international interest should be written in English first. We’ll then consider if it’s worthwhile producing a Norwegian version too. Of course, stories about projects or results that are only relevant to a Scandinavian audience should be written in Norwegian.

When writing in English, remember to consider the international nature of our audience. Try to avoid “Norwegianisms” including references to terms or concepts that only a native would understand.

How should a research blog be structured?

The blog editors will likely suggest a title that’s optimized for search engines. However, it’s a good idea to propose a working title before you start writing to keep your writing focused on that one thing.

Word count is flexible although between 500 and 2,000 words is preferred. Rather than aim for an arbitrary word count, use as many words as you need to tell the story in a succinct, structured way.

When you write the post itself, avoid the temptation to structure it like a scientific article! In fact, blog posts are often structured in reverse. The conclusion comes first! In general, introductions that aim to build up suspense simply don’t work on the web. Consider a popular news website. From the title, ingress and first paragraph, a reader should know the who, what, when, where, why and how.

How to write a science blog: Close shot of dart arrow spot on
Get to the point quickly. The reader should know the who, what, when, where, why and how from the title, ingress and first paragraph. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Links are important, both to external sources and to articles on the SINTEF website and #SINTEFblog. You can refer to other blog posts that give more detail on a topic, or to webpages detailing expertise such as labs, for example. Link to sources within the text rather than creating a list at the end.

Photos and diagrams are very welcome. Also, be generous! Include credit where credit is due, for example by mentioning your colleagues and project partners. If including external partners, it’s a good idea to let them read the post first before publication.

Finally: Distribute your blog!

When your blog is published you should share it with your colleagues and research partners. You can use e-mail, our Yammer network, and social media platforms such as LinkedIn, ResearchGate, Facebook and Twitter.

Let us know if there are any relevant dates coming up relevant to the article, so we can schedule social media posts in advance.

Happy writing!

Writer’s block? Some suggestions for getting started

  • Scientific results are good news! Have you and your colleagues recently published a scientific article?
  • Science methods. Traditional news media are often not interested in methods, but descriptions can be interesting in a science blog. What methods have you used? How sure are you about your results?
  • Do you want to highlight a new area of skills and expertise? You can blog about that!
  • Do you want to comment on international research going on in your field? Why is this interesting in relation to your area of research?
  • Recently started or interesting ongoing projects? Write about what you are working on and why.
  • Have we been granted new laboratory facilities? Write about these and the opportunities they provide.

If you have an idea, don’t hesitate to reach out to the blog editors for help. Even if you don’t have an idea but want to blog, tell us about your research and we’ll help you come up with a story. Now there’s no excuses!