• 30) NARRATIVE COMMUNICATION

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     A Framework for Science Logo  Increasing Impact Button Narrative Communication Button   Topic Outline Thin Button

    Using tools from narrative storytelling can help make scientific communication more interesting.


    Strongly-reasoned arguments presented in hierarchies will have clear connections among ideas. Connections among ideas create smooth transitions and conceptual "flow" that make text be easier to understand. However, although being easy to understand is clearly important, being interesting to audiences can also strengthen scientific communication. Therefore, scientific writing can benefit from strategies to encourage and maintain reader interest.


    Storytelling is one effective way to make communication more interesting to audiences (Olson, 2015; Luna, 2013; Schimel, 2012). Stories are often interesting because they involve conflict. Therefore, including and emphasizing disjunctions (OR dichotomies) and contrasts (BUT conjunctions) in reasoned arguments can help make scientific communication more interesting.


    Having a overall storyline, or "arc,"  can also help to create smoother transitions between ideas and make communication more interesting (Olson, 2015Luna, 2013; Schimel, 2012). Many successful stories use a similar arc as a framework to structure the story, the so-called "Hero's Journey" (Campbell, 1991). 


    The Hero's Journey involves an ordinary person who is called to adventure. The Hero finds themselves at a threshold where they must make a decision: go or stay. The hero decides to embark on the adventure, where they face challenges, temptations, and reach a low point (an ordeal). To overcome the ordeal, the hero must undergo a transformation, where they change (for the better). The transformation allows the hero to find their path home and return a hero. 
    Heroes Journey 01
    The scientific process is analogous to the Hero's Journey framework (Olson, 2015). Science begins with mysteries (questions). Scientists create hypotheses, and decide whether to experimentally test the hypotheses. Experiments and data collection are often challenging, and often involve crises or ordeals. Data may not at first make sense, causing some hypotheses to be rejected. However, by transforming their thinking (revising hypotheses), scientists create new hypotheses that DO seem to make sense of the data. With their new hypotheses, the scientists confidently submit their manuscripts (convinced that journals and reviewers will acknowledge the scientists as heroes smile.
    Heroes Journey 02
    The sections of a scientific paper are also broadly consistent with the Hero's Journey framework. The Introduction introduces the important questions of the study, identifies the gap in understanding (the threshold), and commits to General and Measurable Hypotheses. The Methods explain the challenges of performing the experiments. The Results apply the data to the Measurable Hypotheses in a thorough and exacting way. Finally, the Discussion uses the conclusions of the Results to advance scientific understanding by supporting or revising General Hypotheses.
    Heroes Journey 03
    Of course, there are many ways to use the Hero's Journey (or other frameworks) to make scientific communication more interesting and engaging for audiences. Using logical transitions that present questions, emphasize contrasts and challenges, and emphasize transformations can help scientific communication take advantage of the power of narrative storytelling.


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    Narrative frameworks such as the "Hero's Journey" can help improve the overall cohesion and flow of scientific communication. Using interesting logical transitions (OR or BUT) can emphasize conflict and challenge. Strong conclusions (THEREFORE) can emphasize transformations.


    29) TITLE AND ABSTRACT31) SPOKEN COMMUNICATION