Explaining specific, complex, abstract, challenging work is tough! Check out these tips and resources we’ve compiled to help you communicate effectively with people outside your field, such as your pen pal!
Advice to make your language accessible
Explaining specific, complex, abstract, challenging work is tough! Check out these tips we’ve compiled to help you explain your work to people outside your field, such as your pen pal!
- Consider your audience: for LPS, imagine you’re talking to a 5th grader who hasn’t ever had a science class before.
- If you’re stuck on how to start, try I VERB…
- Explain unfamiliar vocabulary first, then give the word or put it in parenthesis, or leave it out! Ask yourself: Is there another way to explain this that creates a visual or connects to a life experience the student already has?
Is the jargon word necessary to understand the concept? Or does another, more common word work just as well to convey the idea?
- Try to balance being both broad and specific. Try not to be so broad your job could be anything (ex. I’m a professor, or I help solve problems) or so specific we lose sight of the why (I research the reproduction of Caribbean coral). The goal is not to dumb down what you do, but to explain it clearly using words people outside your field can understand.
- Identify common science words your student might be familiar with (ex. earth, planets, brain) and science words that may be common in your field but will need to be defined for students (ex. neuroscience, genetics, microscope, bacteria, cell)? If you’re in academia – consider what academia words you’re using (ex. grad student, post doc) that may need to be explained.
- Keep your descriptions concise – explain the most important topics or overarching themes of your research, but avoid too many technical details. Give general information about the tasks that consume most of your time.
- Use metaphors and descriptive language students can relate to, and expand on concepts they might have heard of or experienced in their lives.
- Do your best to: make us care, make us excited and want to know more, and cover at least three of the following: who, what, where, when, why.