Break the familiar routine of papers and write a blog post! ‘This way you can be more involved with the subject’
Exam, paper, exam, paper. A familiar, though sometimes little unexciting, routine for students. That is why Film and Literary students Sietske de Haan and Wouter Dijkman decided to write a blog post for the course Interculturality. Their impressive achievement was rewarded with a publication on science platform Wetenschap.nu.
Sietske and Wouter wrote their blog as part of a broader science communication track developed by lecturers Yasco Horsman and Astrid Van Weyenberg. The track consists of three workshops in which students are trained in non-traditional skills. For example, for the subject Interculturalism they did not have to write a traditional paper, but a blog that could be easily understood by people with no prior knowledge.
Some getting used to
It took some getting used to for the students. ‘I noticed that some students struggled a little initially. We are so used to writing in a specific manner, that these students ended up just writing essays,’ Wouter recalls. Sietske recognises the struggle as well. ‘We were not allowed to do a lot of the things we had been taught before,’ she says. ‘We were not allowed to use certain scientific terms, for example, because if you write for the general public, you cannot expect everyone to know what they mean.
Furthermore, the students were completely free to do their own thing. Sietske and Wouter both chose to write about subjects they were passionate about. ‘It helps enormously if you can write about about your passions,’ says Sietske. She chose guitar music or desert rock from the Sahara region as her subject. ‘I love music and was already familiar with the genre, which is how I ended up with that particular subject,’ she explains. Wouter decided to combine his passion for video games and travelling, and came up with the concept of digital tourism. ‘There are many misconceptions about video games. Things like “games are bad for children” and “you are just a couch potato,”’ says Wouter. He wants to prove them wrong. ‘Take Assassin's Creed Odyssey, for example. The game is not only about high scores, but you can also gain new experiences. The game has a mode in which your character can walk around freely in ancient Greece. My 80-year-old father thought it was super fascinating to see what it used to look like.’
When the students first heard that their blogs were the best and they would therefore be published, they could not quite believe it. ‘Who am I really to write about this subject and is it really good enough for official publishing?’ wonders Sietske. ‘It may sound a little negative, but I am also a quite proud of myself,’ she adds.
‘I think it is great that my blog got published, because now I can actually say that I have a quasi-scientific publication under my belt,' says Wouter. ‘I even posted it on my Instagram and forwarded it to my parents, who in turn sent it all to their friends.’
‘Go for it!'
Wouter and Sietske highly recommend these alternatives to writing papers. ‘If only to try something new. It might take more time and energy to learn something different from just writing papers, but in my opinion, the chance that you will only write papers at your job in the future seems quite small. It is always useful to learn how to communicate in different ways,’ says Wouter.
For Sietske, the creative possibilities are a big plus. ‘Writing a paper is a fairly passive activity. With a blog post you are a lot more involved with the subject. You can be more creative and if that something you are interested in, you should definitely go for it!’
Moreover, the students think that blog posts written by students could make science more accessible to the general public. ‘The average person who is interested in science are not likely to download papers from Google Scholar. They will probably read blogs like these, so that is a more effective medium to focus on,’ says Wouter. Sietske finds it useful as well. It is important to communicate with people who do not all know the same things. Society is divided in all sorts of different ways and people feel more comfortable to stay in their own bubble. It is not a bad thing in itself, but you need to be able to talk to each other.’