Tag Archives: writing

AHCJ freelancers contribute to new book on science writing

Several AHCJ members are part of a new book, “The Craft of Science Writing,” which was published at the beginning of February. The 300-pager, available for $10 as an ebook and $25 as a paperback, is a collection of articles from The Open Notebook, which covers the stories behind science writing.

Among the more than 35 contributors, AHCJ members include Christie Aschwanden, Jeanne Erdmann and Kendall Powell. You’ll also recognize The Open Notebook editor Siri Carpenter, Washington Post health editor Laura Helmuth, New York Times columnist Carl Zimmer, and many more. Continue reading

Using numbers to explain vaccine benefits

Photo: Sanofi Pasteur via Flickr

Do you wrestle with ways to illustrate numbers when writing about vaccines?

Dr. Gretchen LaSalle, a family physician in Spokane, Wash., recently offered some ways to do this effectively in a blog post called Vaccine Data: Do the Math.

LaSalle skillfully highlights two examples of how numbers can be used. In one example, related to flu figures, she suggests how real-life context can make the risks of the flu more obvious. In another example, related to measles data, she underscores how numbers can be used to mislead. Continue reading

Boning up on unfamiliar research areas can pay off with specialized knowledge, more assignments

Photo: bc the path via Flickr

In a recent social media post, a fellow journalist asked how others get up to speed on reporting about topics new to them, or even covering a new subtopic within an area they already cover. Here’s some of what was shared in that online discussion, and I encourage others to share their tips in the comments as well.

If it’s a quick piece with a tight turnaround and I find I’m out of my depth, I go back to the editor and say so. I’ve turned down assignments even after taking them if I realize I just don’t have the necessary foundational knowledge. Continue reading

A good story about medical studies begins with a responsible headline

Photo: Sergio Santos via Flickr

Many journalists have little to do with the final headline that ends up on their story, while others — such as bloggers and regular contributors to certain publications — are almost exclusively responsible for their headlines.

But even in the first case, journalists may submit a working headline with their story and often have some sway over the final headline. Continue reading

What was that number again …? The solution to re-using stats in your writing

Photo: kerolic via Flickr

Like many reporters, I have developed several niches in my reporting within medical research. I most often write about pediatrics, women’s health, mental health, vaccines, public health (including gun violence) and, increasingly, health disparities or related social justice aspects of health and medicine.

Because I try to include links throughout my writing to back up the figures I use to provide context on a topic, I would frequently find myself looking up the same data again and again. For topics like vaccines, it usually wasn’t too difficult to find studies or statistics I had previously cited. They were generally easy to find on the CDC website, or I could remember a couple key articles I’d written where I linked to the majority of the figures I might want to link to again. Continue reading