Scientific Writing and Social Media

Sept. 26, 2018

Writing is a big part of most scientific careers. Your writing tells other people in the scientific community what you’ve done and it can open the door to speak at conferences and write on special topics. It can also help you get funding and promote your work. 

We talked to Beronda Montgomery, a Professor at Michigan State University, about ways to incorporate writing in your busy schedule and how to promote your writing.

Integrate Writing and Benchwork

Often, scientists will do all of their experiments before they write. Dr. Montgomery encourages that you write in these steps, with references for each experiment:

  1. What is your hypothesis and the evidence for it?

  2. How will you test it? What experimental design/methods will you use?

  3. What are the results? What do the figures and legends look like? Do they confirm the hypothesis? Or reject the hypothesis? Can you explain why the hypothesis is rejected? What experiments do you need to do next?  

  4. How do your results add to/relate to prior knowledge?

By using these steps to write for each experiment, you can add and arrange short pieces into a longer one to tell a story. This can eventually become a whole paper, poster and/or presentation. Because you’ve included references with each short writing piece, compiling the references into a larger document is easier.

Use Other People's Strenghts to Help Your Writing

Figure out the strengths of the people in your lab and your friends, and ask them to review your writing. Do you know someone who is good at creating titles, at spotting grammatical errors or writing succinctly? Ask them to review your manuscripts. Each person has their strengths, and working together can help everyone become a better writer.

Be Your Own Personal PR

Use social media to promote the journal articles, books and chapters that you write, or find a colleague who will tweet on your behalf. Often, the society that manages the journal you published in will tweet about your article, which you can retweet.

When you share publications on social media, others will share tweets with you related to the same topic. That keeps you up-to-date on what’s happening and cultivates your network. You can also share infographics from papers to create awareness for a topic and help people get a general idea of what the paper is about without reading the whole paper.

Sharing your work on social media can get you rapid and ongoing feedback on your work that can lead to new ideas to pursue. Social media also gives you real-time tracking of the impact of your work by the number of likes, retweets and downloads.  

We thank Beronda Montgomery for her time in sharing these tips for writing in the lab and promoting your scientific literature on social media. Good luck engaging with the digital world!

Author: Shilpa Gadwal

Shilpa Gadwal
Shilpa Gadwal is the Career Resources Specialist at ASM.