My introductory class, BIOL 251, Intro to Ecology and Evolution, was one of the first times I was introduced to general audience writing in the biology field. While we did not physically write a general audience paper in this class, I had the opportunity to read and analyze one during a lab. We read a New York Times article on the bird population decline in America. After reading the general audience article, each person in the class presented a slide to the class explaining what we learned from the article, compared to what we were used to reading, a formal research paper. It was interesting to hear other people’s perspectives on the paper and what they found to be most helpful when writing one!
As a part of BIOL 288, sophomore seminar, I wrote a general audience paper on a topic of our choice. I chose the topic of human impacts on wildlife. This was and still is an interest of mine and I enjoyed being able to do research on it. This was the first experience I had actually writing an official general audience paper. Translating research articles to language a general audience was harder than I imagined because terms I knew from having a small background in biology at this point may not have made sense to a non-biology reader. This put science topics into perspective for me that gaps in knowledge between science and non-science professionals exist, possibly because of the lack of general audience papers for a majority of the research being discovered. Looking back on my general audience paper I can tell that there are mistakes that could be improved such as structure and word choice that I think improved when I wrote my general audience paper in BIOL 301.
In BIOL 301, Comprehensive Anatomy and Physiology, one of the first projects I did was an analysis of everyone’s fingerprints in the class to determine if one type of fingerprint was more popular than others. From the results, instead of writing a research paper, we wrote a general audience paper to reach a greater audience than just science disciplines. Since I had already done a general audience paper in 288, it came more easily for me to write, but it was still hard to use different word choices than I was used to when writing a research paper. Overall, I think I learned a lot from writing this general audience paper and I will be able to apply the critiques I got to future papers.
Overall, from my progression throughout my courses, I have learned how to more effectively communicate to audiences outside the sciences by generalizing terms and explaining the most important aspects of science. I learned that it can be difficult for individuals outside of science to understand important public topics and being able to reach more people with science is very important for the education of a large general audience!