Science News: media vs real world

Science in the media vs science in the real world

If you are like most of the people probably you have read the science section of a newspaper or a magazine, but rarely you have read a scientific study.

This is normal. The science and technology section in the media is amusing. It makes us feel smarter. However, scientific studies are not so reader-friendly and certainly do not make you feel smarter.

Media science

Science News in the media may make scientific discussions enjoyable and interesting as general knowledge, but they are not useful for professional use.

The problem is that more often than not, the engaging magazine/TV version transforms the factual scientific jargon in an optimistic juicy interpretation, leading easily the reader to a misinterpretation of the actual results of the study.

Of course, everybody wants to hear that we have found a cure for cancer, but scientific advances are usually more modest. Many small studies in the same direction are necessary to get a breakthrough discovery.

A good example of how the scientific studies are communicated in mainstream media is explained in this show of John Oliver. This hilarious and at the same time sadly true episode explains the distance between the headlines and the actual scientific results.

Real science

Scientific studies are dense to read. Full of technical details. They are not stand-alone sources. You need previous knowledge in the field to understand the issue.

But scientific literature has a specific structure too. The communication follows basic rules which are easy to learn. And once you understand them, you can process the information better.

In this blog, I aim to explain to you how to deal efficiently with the scientific literature to make it a useful source of information for your projects.

Middle ground

There is a middle ground between juicy media and tough scientific articles, specialized magazines that divulge scientific advances in a precise and pleasant way. Some general examples are:

You should find sources that focus on your field of interest.

Beyond the source

In any case, more important than the source, it is to read science critically. This is a skill that takes time to develop, but some tips help us to be more critical. I recommend you to watch this video from It’s Okey To Be Smart who gives some tricks on how to read science news.

Be skeptical when the article

  • has a question in the headline.
  • is based on a press release.
  • use words like: a study suggests, scientists baffle…
  • do not follow the scientific method.
  • have financial incentives for you to read.
  • use hype vocabulary.
  • is just quoting with no review work behind.
  • use stereotypes or social constructions.

Now it’s your turn

What is your preferred source to read science news?

Let us your answer in comments


Free downloadable guide

By the way, I have created a short guide, a roadmap, of how to deep dive into science. I have condensed in a few pages the method I follow to learn about a new scientific topic from casual to serious learner.

I am sure you are going to love it. Subscribe now to my free newsletter and I will send you the downloadable pdf directly to your inbox.

Author: Enrique Morales Orcajo, PhD

I am an engineer, scientist, and traveler based in Europe. I write about how to consume and digest scientific studies in a practical and efficient way. My goal is to help you make more sound scientific judgments.

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