This semester we’ve had some really interesting coursework pieces to complete – instead of plain essays all the time, we’ve been doing quite different pieces of work. For example, in my GIS module I made a portfolio of 8 cartograms, which are maps distorted to represent a particular variable, on a topic of my choice, and compared how effective they were in comparison to traditional map representations. Sourcing your own data and making your own maps entirely by yourself was pretty cool. I’ve also got a policy report to write on the vulnerability of a particular region of the world to climate change, and what adaption strategies are available. I’ve done all the research for this and planned it out but need to finalise writing it, although it might be a challenge as it’s in a completely different style to what we’re used to.
But what I wanted to talk to you most about was a piece of coursework I recently handed in. We were tasked with writing a popular science article on a topic of our choosing related to climate change or environmental change, in the style of articles written for the New Scientist or The Guardian etc. This was quite a challenge as our article had to include facts and the correct science in them, but it also had to have a story-like narrative. All the concepts had to be simply explained so that intelligent adults could understand them, not scientists.
To help us with writing this, our head of department Professor Sue Page, who runs the module, had organised for us to have two seminars led by a lady named Helen Pilcher, who is a freelance science article writer. She taught us the key components of a popular science article feature, and how they should be written, and gave us guidance on the correct use of photographs and figures. One of the key components of science article features are quotes from relevant people in the field, be it scientists who have been conducting the research you are writing about, or members of the general public who have an anecdote on the subject. We were encouraged to obtain quotes from two different people for our feature. Having to contact scientists to ask them to speak about something for your undergraduate coursework seemed a little daunting at first, but it was actually okay. And it got us all speaking to scientists from many different fields, which was interesting.
So everything we’ve done for this coursework has been very different to what we have been taught in the past, as previously we have been writing in a more academic style. But Helen’s seminars were really interesting and useful, and it was great to have a go at something completely different for a change!
Just a quick note: I am away on holiday for a couple of weeks from tomorrow, so I might not be able to post many blogs in the coming weeks. My apologies for this, but I will try to post one as soon as I get back.