News writing guide for researchers
We only publish news about recently published science research and papers presented at conferences. We generally do not post stories about grants, contests, profiles of researchers or such things as the opening of new science facilities. We do not publish the abstracts of studies.
News writing standards differ from the editorial requirements of a peer-reviewed journal.
Following are guidelines for writing science news:
Headline / title
Science X favors headlines that are highly informative over those with clever wordplay. In AP style, only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized. Max length 120 characters.
- Extreme heat impacts firms' stock value, study finds
- Scientists report rapid test to ensure high milk quality
- New approach uses light to stabilize proteins for study
Avoid the following:
- Do not use title-case capitalization for headlines, i.e., "Shark Skin Microbiome Resists Infection."
- Do not write non-informative titles such as "X is better than Y."
- Do not write "clickbait" headlines like "Finally, Alzheimer’s is cured."
- Avoid headlines with sensationalistic phrases like "Scientific breakthrough."
- Do not reference the journal publication in the headline, i.e., "UDRM prof. documents new discovery of plant species in journal article." This should instead be something like "Researcher discovers plant species in Arizona."
- As we publish news for a global audience, avoid referencing specific institutions in the headline, as is sometimes found in PR copy, i.e., "State University physicist invents new polymer synthesis method." This should instead be something like "Physicist reports new polymer synthesis method."
Please include a byline. If two writers contributed to the article, separate names with "and." If more than two writers contributed, separate names with commas.
The first sentence, sometimes called a "lede," provides a general overview of the whole article and includes many of the basic facts. The sentences that follow the lead in the first paragraph provide more general details but begin to include specifics such as the research methods and the relevance of the research to industry or the sciences.
This structure is sometimes called the "inverted pyramid," as it provides all of the most general details first, and narrows down to more specific details throughout the story.
- Please write in active voice. The elements of style are beyond the purview of this guide, but a consultation with a peer who is familiar with these principles might help.
- Please write in the past tense.
- Please feel free to write your story in the first person and in your own voice. Dialog stories are intended as a conversation between knowledgeable researchers and the Science X audience. While we encourage you to include the technical details of your research, adding illustrative analogies, anecdotes from the research process—or even jokes—can convey important information and clarify the underlying science to a lay audience.
- Avoid using second-person pronouns such as the editorial "we." You should preferentially write "The researchers" and "their" rather than second-person pronouns such as "we" and "our."
- Keep sentences short, direct and clear. Detail events in chronological order. Please remember to build from more general details to more specific details.
- Avoid lengthy lists of the qualifications and accomplishments of the researchers involved, though a very brief reference to the background of the researchers is acceptable, particularly if it relates to the study or its methods. Please avoid lengthy paragraphs about the funding sources for the research.
- Avoid excessive formatting with bold text and italics. Do not italicize Latin words such as the genus and species of animals, or such terms as et al, etc., i.e. and e.g.
- Avoid editorializing about the impact or prestige of the journal that published the study.
- Do not include hyperlinks to personal pages or university websites.
- Do not use footnotes. Any information you want to convey via footnotes should simply be included in the body of the text.
Sources / quotes
All quotes should be enclosed in quotation marks; punctuation appears within the quote marks as in U.S. editorial style.
Only tag quotes with the verb "said" or "says." Do not use other verbs to tag quotes.
- "We were very surprised by the results of the analysis," said Dr. Jones.
- Dr. Williamson says, "Next year, we hope to conduct similar experiments with human subjects."
When quoting directly from the study, enclose the quote in quotation marks and tag the quote clearly.
- The researchers wrote, "Finally, as a control, we also considered the case in which all neurons projected in all directions with equal probability."
- The researchers noted the limitations of the new model, writing, "So far, experimental data have not yet revealed a clear relationship between spatial proximity of individual neurons and their order in a neuronal activity sequence."
- The study says, "Typically, in network models with distance-dependent connectivity, the connection probability is considered to be isotropic in all directions."
Avoid the following:
- Do not tag quotes with verbs like "emphasizes," "highlights" or "laughs." Don’t worry that using "said" and "says" throughout the article is repetitive; readers do not notice the quote tags.
- Avoid quotes from the study that are longer than a sentence or two.
- Do not attribute a single quote to more than one person, i.e., "Each neuron was chosen at random from a set of eight different directions," said Johnson and Stevens.
Occasionally, quotes are derived from an email interview involving more than one interview subject. If this is the case, attribute the quote to "the researchers" and clearly indicate that the response was written.
You may conclude an article in a number of ways. You may choose to end with a quote from a researcher that conveys a strong sense of the relevance of the research or the news story as a whole; you may summarize the results; you could suggest directions for future research.
You may include a one-paragraph bio of the main researcher at the end of the article with points of professional relevance.
Please provide at least one image or illustration (1024 x 768 pixels or larger) with clear caption and credit. We prefer jpg files, and we also accept animated gif files if they are not too large. The image should be public domain, available under CC license, or you must own the copyright or arrange all necessary permissions for third-party publication. YouTube, Vimeo or video files are also welcome.
We prefer not to publish portraits or headshots of researchers. However, we do accept photos of researchers in the field or working in the lab.
Captions for photos should be descriptive. If you are including a number of graphs from the study, you may designate them in the captions as "Figure 1," "Figure 2," etc.
Captions should end with a credit in this format:
- Credit: Elsevier
- Credit: Max Smith
- Credit: NASA
Please cite the study or studies the article references in the following format: Author Name, Title, Journal name (year). DOI number.
If more than one researcher contributed to the study, use the first author followed by "et al."
If the study does not have a DOI number, as in many pre-press archives, please provide a link to the study or the abstract instead.
- Sebastian Spreizer et al. From space to time: Spatial inhomogeneities lead to the emergence of spatiotemporal sequences in spiking neuronal networks, PLOS Computational Biology (2019). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1007432
- Wei Zhang et al. Application of Multi-channel 3-D-cube Successive Convolution Network for Convective Storm Nowcasting. arXiv (2019). https://arxiv.org/abs/1702.04517