In Layman’s Terms Teaching Students to Understand the Scientific Literature through Blog-style Writing Assignments

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Chadene Z. Tremaglio
Michelle L. Kraczkowski


Lay summaries are commonly written by researchers in many disciplines to translate technical scientific concepts into language that can be understood by general audiences. In our first-year introductory biology course, we employed a write-to-learn pedagogy by incorporating a lay summary-style writing assignment that encouraged students to explain the major results of a journal article in their own words, a format we referred to as “blog-style” for our students. We chose to use this format to allow students to focus on understanding, defining and explaining key scientific terminology, without regurgitating technical jargon. Students selected and read a scientific journal article connected to a biotechnology topic at the start of the semester and were given worksheets to complete throughout the semester that guided them in the reading of their article. We also offered in-class workshops that focused on best practices for reading journal articles, how to write for a general audience, and how to avoid plagiarism. Students then composed two-page, lay style summaries highlighting some of the key findings of the articles that they read. This assignment resulted in many students producing engaging, well-written papers that allowed them to demonstrate meaningful understanding of some of the technical terminology and concepts in their articles.

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Tremaglio, C., & Kraczkowski, M. . (2024). In Layman’s Terms: Teaching Students to Understand the Scientific Literature through Blog-style Writing Assignments. Prompt: A Journal of Academic Writing Assignments, 8(1).