fish89

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What are some tips on writing for non-technical audiences? I wrote a review for my lab prof about something I want to study, but because he is not familiar with the field, he asked me to translate into "layman's terms." The other day, I was interviewed by the school paper about a poster I presented. The reporter, a grad student, seemed slightly confused, no matter what words I tried to use. This is slightly frustrating, because the ability to communicate eloquently is important in any field. What are some techniques you have used to explain new concepts to people who don't know about the field? How do you translate scientific jargon "eg. Pathway XY causes a hemodynamic response in the AB area" into words people can understand?
 

Retsage

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What's a pathway? What's a hemodynamic response? What's the AB area?

You need to give the basic background information for people to understand the specialized topic you're discussing.
 
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savant

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I find that often people (incl myself) think that laymen need to know all the details of the research in question. This is not true at all. What you need to do is to find the most interesting findings/data that you obtained in your research, and explain the general concepts behind your findings to your professor.

For example, you can use a format like this (1) a few sentences on the background - what other research has been done on your topic, how you propose to add to the existing conversation (2) depending on the audience, a short description of your methodology (tailor to your audience - don't talk about specific procedures, tests, protocols if it's not relevant to your audience) (3) your results and MOST IMPORTANTLY why is it is important to the existing field.

If they then need to know more, or ask questions, you can be more specific then. IMO someone who really understands the material can explain a concept even to young children -- use analogies they can grasp, avoid jargon unless absolutely essential, etc..

Also you may want to read a few articles on google news. you may find that they are often inaccurate and ambiguous, but they get the main points across well in a exciting way.
 

Quix

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In general, assume an eighth-grade education for a general audience.
 

nycfella

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Posts like this kind of baffle me, to be honest. You really can't explain to people with no high-level scientific knowledge what you're doing in your research?


Milkman always has the right answers.
:cool:
 

JackInTheBox

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In general, assume an eighth-grade education for a general audience.

What's sad is the average person you meet on the street is probably at this level or lower in terms of their science background.
 

health565656

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What are some tips on writing for non-technical audiences? I wrote a review for my lab prof about something I want to study, but because he is not familiar with the field, he asked me to translate into "layman's terms." The other day, I was interviewed by the school paper about a poster I presented. The reporter, a grad student, seemed slightly confused, no matter what words I tried to use. This is slightly frustrating, because the ability to communicate eloquently is important in any field. What are some techniques you have used to explain new concepts to people who don't know about the field? How do you translate scientific jargon "eg. Pathway XY causes a hemodynamic response in the AB area" into words people can understand?

This condition is characterized by low muscle tone (give the term), smaller than normal weight at birth (give the term)...... and just keep writing like that.
 

health565656

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I find that often people (incl myself) think that laymen need to know all the details of the research in question. This is not true at all. What you need to do is to find the most interesting findings/data that you obtained in your research, and explain the general concepts behind your findings to your professor.

For example, you can use a format like this (1) a few sentences on the background - what other research has been done on your topic, how you propose to add to the existing conversation (2) depending on the audience, a short description of your methodology (tailor to your audience - don't talk about specific procedures, tests, protocols if it's not relevant to your audience) (3) your results and MOST IMPORTANTLY why is it is important to the existing field.

If they then need to know more, or ask questions, you can be more specific then. IMO someone who really understands the material can explain a concept even to young children -- use analogies they can grasp, avoid jargon unless absolutely essential, etc..

Also you may want to read a few articles on google news. you may find that they are often inaccurate and ambiguous, but they get the main points across well in a exciting way.

You want to piece it all together. For instance, write a short review of any medical condition.

Cover what the condition is, how it develops, what goes wrong, explain how treatment methods work because of what goes wrong, and so forth.
 
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Yeah, if you can't explain what you're doing to say a middle or high school student, you probably don't know enough about your actual project. As for how to go about explaining things to lay people, maybe you could try first going over the most basic, obvious points, and then go more and more into detail if they seem to be understanding what you're saying.
 

Vihsadas

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All it really takes is two things:

1) You have to understand the absolute minimum amount of conceptual knowledge (the barebones structure) that is required for the layman to get the gist of what you are doing.
2) Come up with a suitable everyday analogy.
 

Quix

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My Technical Writing book is calling your name right now...


I have spent many a night with bottles of booze trying to forget technical writing. I taught this for a year and it was an absolutely horrific experience - it makes research methods look like a day at an amusement park.
 
D

deleted74029

Honestly,if you can't explain it in layman terms, I would presume that you weren't totally cognizant of what was going on yourself.
 

Twiigg

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I have spent many a night with bottles of booze trying to forget technical writing. I taught this for a year and it was an absolutely horrific experience - it makes research methods look like a day at an amusement park.

Haha! I'm so glad to here someone else feels the same way. I've never thought about it on the instructor's end. They would have to grade hundreds of technical instructions on random subjects. Yuck....
 
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