Health & Science Writer guidelines

We want to provide our readers with all sides of an issue. However, since this is a science based column, please make sure that you document facts correctly. For example:

  • If you reference a particular study or research paper, make sure to find the original document and link to it. Usually when a study is cited in other articles but difficult to find, it is because there is a problem with it. The study or report was either not peer-reviewed, discredited, or it was never published by a reputable science journal. Please do not reference a particular study if you cannot find it. Peer-reviewed studies are always the best.
  • When writing about an illness or disease, provide some facts and statistics. Google “CDC (disease) facts,” while there are several other good medical websites, the CDC tends to be a good resource and readers recognize it instantly. Provide a link to your information. Check out this diabetes fact sheet.
  • Be careful when quoting and interpreting figures and numbers from studies. The correct interpretation of studies and facts is the mark of a good researcher and a good writer.  For example, National Geographic stated the following in a 2004 article:

Globally, more than a third of mangrove forests have disappeared in the last 20 years, according to researchers at Boston University’s Marine Biological Laboratory. They note that as much as 38 percent of this decline is due to shrimp farm development.”

For years, however, journalists covering shrimp farming have misquoted and misinterpreted this information:

Problems with irresponsible methods of farming don’t end at the “yuck,” factor as shrimp farming is credited with destroying 38 percent of the world’s mangroves,” 1/24/2010

 “Shrimp farms are responsible for the destruction of 38 percent of the world’s unique and crucial mangrove habitats.” 9/6/2010

 “Shrimp farmers have destroyed an estimated 38 percent of the world’s mangroves to create shrimp ponds, and the damage is permanent.” 1/14/2014

See the difference?

It took a little sleuthing, but the original document is available online and can be downloaded here (see pages 4 and 17). It confirms that the first quote is correct and the other three are flat out wrong.

If a writer quotes a figure, make sure that they have a reference or do a google search for the fact quoted. If you can’t find an original quote from a study, government entity, DO NOT quote it- it is probably incorrect and we do not want to contribute to misinformation.