Writing Popular Scientific Articles, Development of Interest in the Natural Sciences, and Non-textual Representations in Student Texts: The “Young Science Journalism” Program in Austria

  • Uwe K. SimonEmail author


Writing is essential to communicate scientific ideas and results. Yet, apart from the documentation of lab procedures and results from experiments, this type of discourse is virtually absent from biology, chemistry or physics classes in many countries. This is partly due to the lack of training science teachers receive in this field, but also because many of them do not consider working with language and in particular student writing as a task to be dealt with in their courses. On the other hand, national standards explicitly demand the training of science communication. Starting in 2015, every Austrian student who wants to pass A-levels will have to compose a final thesis. The question then becomes, how do we prepare those students who choose topics from the natural sciences and have never written a lengthy text in this field before? In addition, there is a growing demand for trainees in science and technology. With the exception of biology there are far too few students who decide to pursue a career in this field in several European countries. In response, the European Union has urged its member states to develop measures to increase the number of university students enrolling in such courses. The projects presented in this chapter focus on helping students to write scientific texts which are accurate in terms of content and formal requirements and at the same time interesting to read. The accompanying research analyzes whether or not such writing contributes to an increased interest of high school students in the natural sciences. Additionally, the projects examine the types of representations other than text (pictures, tables, graphs) students choose for illustration. Results from a workshop-based exploratory intervention study conducted in one Austrian high school class indicate that the article writing concept presented here indeed contributes to increased interest in the natural sciences amongst high school students (especially with females) and helps them to improve their written scientific communication. Initial data from an ongoing project with several intervention and control classes are also included. In terms of representations other than text, students seemed to prefer pictures, while relatively few students presented complementary information in tables or graphs. Interview data shows that students valued such representations highly, but many felt that illustrations in the texts of their peers did not always fit well with the main text or that the information contributed was negligible.


Anorexia Nervosa Natural Science Science Teacher Scientific Text Austrian Student 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I want to express my sincere gratitude to my colleagues from the departments of didactics of biology, chemistry and physics for their editorial help with the Young Science magazine, to my PhD student Sonja Enzinger and my diploma students Sandra Wallner and Thomas Mitterhuber for allowing me to include first results from their work, to the students and teachers involved in article writing and the projects presented here, to Mark Mcdermott for his many helpful suggestions to improve this paper, and to the Styrian Government (Exciting Science), the Austrian Ministry of Education (IMST) and the Dr. Heinrich-Jörg-Stiftung for their grants.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Biology Teacher EducationKarl-Franzens-UniversityGrazAustria

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