Using peer reviewed scientific papers as primary sources ought to be standard practice in science journalism. Nevertheless, it is unusual to find direct quotes from the scientific literature in the printed press or in TV and radio newscasts. OBJECTIVE/HYPOTHESIS. Anecdotal evidence suggests that journalists may shy away from specialised journal articles due to the perception that they are extremely complex and time‐consuming to understand. This perception may be akin to that of an inexperienced reader confronted with such literature classics as "Moby Dick", spanning some 800 pages. We hypothesise that the literary synthesis used to boil down the original version to an abbreviated "children’s book" may serve as a basis for a practical method for science journalists to synthesise the essential information from scientific papers. METHODS. From Herman Melville’s "Moby Dick" we characterised what is commonly known in literature as synthesis, a tool to write brief versions of lengthy texts, with the ultimate condition of keeping the essence of the original version. We then set out to apply the concept of synthesis to the task of journalists confronted with scientific papers. To that end, Abstracts from papers published in the journals Nature and Science were analysed in search of common useful characteristics. RESULTS. Structural features were identified from which we have designed a method of successive syntheses in which a few sequential readings of the abstract of any given paper can lead to a highly controlled consultation of the full body of the paper. A final synthesised version of the essential science can be extracted in a format and time frame useful for science journalists. The practicality of the method is illustrated with its application to five papers from various fields of the sciences. CONCLUSIONS. Parallels have been identified between the use of synthesis as a literary tool to abbreviate complex, lengthy texts and its use as a tool for science journalists to digest convoluted scientific articles in the peer reviewed literature. A method of successive syntheses (Sucsynth) is proposed to facilitate the inclusion of this kind of papers as primary sources in science journalism.

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Sucsynth
A method of succesive syntheses for science journalists to approach peer reviewed papers

Javier Cruz   National Autonomous University of México

Aleida Rueda   National Autonomous University of México

Using peer reviewed scientific papers as primary sources ought to be standard practice in science journalism. Nevertheless, it is unusual to find direct quotes from the scientific literature in the printed press or in TV and radio newscasts. OBJECTIVE/HYPOTHESIS. Anecdotal evidence suggests that journalists may shy away from specialised journal articles due to the perception that they are extremely complex and time‐consuming to understand. This perception may be akin to that of an inexperienced reader confronted with such literature classics as "Moby Dick", spanning some 800 pages. We hypothesise that the literary synthesis used to boil down the original version to an abbreviated "children’s book" may serve as a basis for a practical method for science journalists to synthesise the essential information from scientific papers. METHODS. From Herman Melville’s "Moby Dick" we characterised what is commonly known in literature as synthesis, a tool to write brief versions of lengthy texts, with the ultimate condition of keeping the essence of the original version. We then set out to apply the concept of synthesis to the task of journalists confronted with scientific papers. To that end, Abstracts from papers published in the journals Nature and Science were analysed in search of common useful characteristics. RESULTS. Structural features were identified from which we have designed a method of successive syntheses in which a few sequential readings of the abstract of any given paper can lead to a highly controlled consultation of the full body of the paper. A final synthesised version of the essential science can be extracted in a format and time frame useful for science journalists. The practicality of the method is illustrated with its application to five papers from various fields of the sciences. CONCLUSIONS. Parallels have been identified between the use of synthesis as a literary tool to abbreviate complex, lengthy texts and its use as a tool for science journalists to digest convoluted scientific articles in the peer reviewed literature. A method of successive syntheses (Sucsynth) is proposed to facilitate the inclusion of this kind of papers as primary sources in science journalism.

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