How to Properly Support Your Article with Scientific Facts
Nothing spreads faster than fake news, especially nowadays, when creating and sharing content that resembles scientific knowledge has become accessible to the masses.
I hear people here and there complaining about family members arguing over the news at the dinner table. This is not a new phenomenon, but doesn’t it feel more irritating when politicians in high responsibility positions participate in creating and disseminating deceptive content?
No, this isn’t the Dunning Krüger effect parasitizing our society, which also appears overrated and largely misunderstood. It’s the core of our fallible human nature to mistake our internal reflections for logical facts. We can probably blame the lack of critical thinking practice of our educational systems too.
But we can make up for our imperfections by applying a methodology to our work. Writing using a methodology is restrictive, sometimes stifling, but it adds significant value to your articles. And at the end of the day, you’ll feel proud of the quality content you bring to this world. One day, maybe, if you are lucky (and a little famous would help too), discussions will be fueled in light of your contribution.
I’ve put together a list of the dos and don’ts of writing scientifically truthful articles.
*Spoiler* It’s not about sticking a bunch of scientific studies into your articles.
- Use words that show your connection to the things you are saying.
Say “I think” or “I believe” when you give your personal opinion. Use “She/He said/thought” when reporting what other people claim, even when they are scientists. Experts have personal beliefs too, and they sure make mistakes.
- Before you start a piece, think about the terms you will use and their definitions. This way, you will begin to build a frame for your topic, and it will give you ideas to dig into.
Example: You are writing an article to teach “How to make a good guacamole.” But what is guacamole? Where does it come from, and where is it used today? Is there a right way to prepare guacamole, or are there different techniques with stories or cultural backgrounds behind them? You see, even cooking is a more complicated subject than people might expect.
- Quote instead of paraphrasing.
This way, you avoid misleading readers while still allowing them to interpret the information in its purest form. It doesn’t mean you can’t bring your own views and comments to the discussion afterward. But give the readers the opportunity to disagree.
- Remove the parts that exceed the limits of your article.
After you do your research, you will begin to visualize the main ideas you will present in your article. Take a moment to set frontiers for your article, or you’ll end up with a 30-page file (or even a book, who knows). In the worst-case scenario, your readers won’t understand where you’re going because they will be confused by overwhelming data.
Put aside any ideas you weren’t able to keep as they might come in handy next time.
- Remove the points you can’t support with scientific facts.
Sometimes I realize a paragraph lacks scientific evidence, or it isn’t convincing enough. If you are aiming for the moon, be intransigent.
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I bet you’ve read that quote more than once. Is there a better way to put it? I don’t think so. Now let's talk about the mistakes that can affect the objectivity of your content.
- Don’t try to fit scientific facts into your piece of writing.
Instead, build your article around scientific elements. If you research after writing your article, you will let your own biases distort facts. Let the facts influence your opinions, not the other way around.
- Don’t “write your first draft with your heart, and rewrite with your head” without making sure that you know what you are talking about first.
Not that James Ellison gave bad advice, but a little brainwork and searching are necessary when you discover a new topic, especially if you’re not an expert.
- Don’t hit “publish” until you have considered the possible consequences of your article.
Are readers at risk of being misled by a turn of phrase? Is this article unbalanced, in favor or against one side? There is nothing wrong with taking sides, but it could have negative consequences if your readers think it’s impartial when it wasn’t intended this way.
Working methodically will allow you to talk in-depth about difficult topics, such as health, law, economics, social sciences, and many others. You will simplify cutting-edge questions while staying reliable, and your readers will appreciate the efforts you’ve made to provide access to new knowledge.
We have the opportunity to create content and spread it to the masses. Platforms like Medium made it so easy that we don’t need to pay a fee to host content and distribute it to a pre-established audience.
But publishing on Medium is not like posting on social media. It gives us the status of Medium writers. Status is like a uniform: it communicates the same power and authority to all the persons who endorse it. Therefore, to readers, it gives the impression of equality between content.
What differentiates your article legitimacy from one published on Barack Obama’s account? Nothing, besides the username.
Perhaps this is one reason why fake news has become such a significant issue in the internet era:
“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility.” Eleanor Roosevelt