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Write a short article explaining how something works. You can describe any process that falls under the broad category of science (including technology, medicine, and nature). You will need to do research to accomplish this. Once you have internalized the process, you must then lead your reader step-by-step to understanding. Use clear organization and headings to help your reader. Be sure to record your research sources as you go.
Guidelines for your explainer:Start with a question or process that fascinates you. What are you curious about? Chances are other people are curious too.Use credible sources to research your topic.Follow the inverted pyramid model for your structure. Start with the one fact that your reader must know before she can learn anything more. Structure your paragraphs logically so that they build on one another.Write in plain English and quickly explain any technical terms that are necessary.Include a human element; answer why it matters.Don’t assume that your reader knows anything about the subject. Give all of the necessary information.Use headings and sections to organize your explainer.Make sure your paragraphs are solid and flow well.Follow CP Style and incorporate your sources into the body of your text.Use your sidebar to enhance (rather than repeat) what the body of your explainer says.Some things to considerWhile the goal of this assignment is to fully and clearly explain how something works, there are many ways to approach it. In his chapter “Science and Technology” in On Writing Well, William Zinsser lays out some useful approaches, which I’ve summarized below:
1. Incorporate the human element to help your reader identify with the scientific work. You can do this in a number of ways:
a. Write yourself into the article and chronicle your interaction with the subject. For example, an article about how memory works could begin with one of your memories. Be sure that your experience is something your readers will be able to relate to.
b. Weave a scientific story around someone else. Since science is about discovery and curiosity, it can be written like a detective story or mystery that needs to be solved. For example, an article about a medical process could start with a regular person who suddenly falls sick; the article takes the reader along to discover why.
2. For every concept that is difficult to grasp, give your readers a simple illustration. Help your reader imagine complex processes by using familiar comparisons. Reduce abstract principles to images that readers can visualize.
For example, in an article about economy and survival in nature you could use the giraffe’s neck as an example of something that seems unnecessarily long, but actually makes perfect sense since the giraffe’s food is up at the top of trees.a. In an article about bats, you could compare echo-location to whistling.
3. Collect more information than you will need and then give the reader just enough. If you are trying to show how precise echo-location is for bats, you would collect many examples and then choose the best two or three to share with your readers. These details should delight and surprise your reader.a. For example, “Some bats are sensitive enough to register a beetle walking on sand, and some can detect the movement of a moth flexing its wings as it sits on a leaf.” (Zinsser 156)
4. Write from a place of genuine curiosity. Your enjoyment of the subject will transfer to your reader. Find a way to lead your reader to the same enthusiasm that you have.
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