Posted: November 20, 2017

Teaching Science Communication Skills with Storytelling Techniques


Ph.D.s need strong communication skills to excel in a variety of careers. Biomedical science trainees must be able to communicate their research and its significance in a way that is interesting to the reader, as clear as possible, and memorable. However, formal instruction in writing and communication is not always emphasized, and trainees may struggle to identify and write about the importance of their research. In a 1-credit course, Communicating Science: Writing for Multiple Audiences, Ph.D. students and postdocs in the biomedical sciences at Washington University in St. Louis learn concepts from storytelling to write elevator pitches, cover letters, and grant application materials. Topics include a definition of “story,” how stories affect the readers’ brain, how to use analogies to make basic science relatable, story structures, and analysis of sample journalistic texts. These concepts from storytelling, narrative theory, and journalism can provide a framework and vocabulary for teaching writing and communication skills. This innovative and interdisciplinary approach to communication pedagogy can help Ph.D. students and postdocs in the biomedical sciences communicate more effectively with colleagues, funding agencies, employers, and the public.


Communication, Pedagogy, Writing, Storytelling


Jessica A. Hutchins, PhD, Washington University in St. Louis