Council for the Advancement of Science Writing

How Do Science Writers Get Their Stories?

A Guide To Careers in Science Writing

Science journalists typically sift through masses of information to decide which stories are most significant for their audience. For example, for newspaper science writers, local science stories may take precedence over national stories. Science writers working for magazines or web channels might choose stories for their targeted appeal to readers segmented by political, lifestyle or business interest.

Science writers gather information from many sources for story ideas and information. These include:

  • Media packages from scientific journals and societies
  • Scientific journals and professional science magazines
  • News releases, both text and video
  • Government records
  • Email pitches from PIOs and scientists
  • Blog postings from science-oriented blogs
  • Microblog and RSS feeds

They also attend scientific meetings, news conferences and breaking news events in science, and maintain contact with helpful scientists and other workers in their field of interest to learn of possible advances. Science journalists also accompany scientific expeditions and observe work in laboratories, producing audio podcasts and video segments, and writing in-depth accounts of the discovery process for publications, blogs and web sites.

The most important activity in developing a news story, however, is interviewing scientists who have made a scientific discovery.

While science writers at smaller news organizations may cover a wide range of science, those at larger newspapers, magazines or special-audience online channels may have narrower "beats," for example biotechnology, astronomy or neuroscience. Science PIOs use many of the same techniques for gathering information on possible stories, but concentrate on researchers at their own institutions or the field covered by their special-interest organization.