Science in the Media:
Session 2

A Scientist Makes a Discovery!

When a scientist makes a discovery, he or she must inform others. In this lesson, students will take a close look at the scientific discovery and how it is communicated to the public. Students will also note how the various media outlets present the same information differently based on their intended audiences. It should be noted the intent is not to instruct students on the intricacies of fine writing, but rather to explore writing styles as it relates to the presentation of information through group work and class discussion.


Estimated class time: 2 class periods

  • Class 1: Discussion about audience, group formation, begin group analysis of articles
  • Class 2: Finish group analysis of articles, share analysis results, wrap-up discussion

Key Concepts

  • Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN)
  • Audience
  • Black Holes
  • Media Source
  • Point of View
  • Purpose
  • Swift Satellite
  • Suzaku X-ray Observatory

Instructional Delivery

  1. Scientific Discovery! X-ray telescopes on Swift and Suzaku have shown scientists some new things about active galactic nuclei (AGN).

    Distribute the introductory email, “A New Discovery,” to each student and have them read it.

    As a class, brainstorm a list of different media sources (i.e., magazines, newspapers, web pages, journals, etc.) where such information might be conveyed to the general public. Post the class’ ideas on the board for all to view.

    Next, have students brainstorm different audience groups who might want to know about this information. List these on the board, as well, and align them to any possible media sources just identified.

    Ask the class, why is it important to know the audience? Students should realize that knowing the intended audience helps to establish a purpose and focus for a writer. For example, a newspaper would have a general public audience; a science magazine would have a science-interested audience; and an astronomy magazine or journal would have an astronomy-interested audience.

    Have students put themselves in the place of a writer employed by any one of the media sources the class identified. What questions might they ask if they are write about the new AGN discovery by Swift and Suzaku? Post the questions on the board for all to see.

  2. The Media. Now students will look at published articles talking about the AGN discovery. Students will note the type of media source and examine how this audience choice affects the writing style and vocabulary.

    Divide the class into three groups. Each group will be assigned one of the three specific articles to review. If need be, larger groups can be divided into smaller groups for the same article.

    Hand each student a copy of the “Article Analysis” handout, a copy of the article (for whichever group they are in), some butcher paper for the group and markers. Students are to work collaboratively in answering the “Article Analysis” questions by recording the answers onto the butcher paper. Once all questions have been answered, post each group’s butcher paper around the room.

    General concepts students will consider as they complete the “Article Analysis”

    • Title (the first impression for the reader)
    • Audience (the intended person of interest)
    • Purpose (the focus of the topic)
    • Point of View (the perspective the author conveys the purpose)

    Take turns sharing each group’s information and note any similarities and differences (between different groups of the same article and among the three separate articles). These are the things that writers must consider when they write for specific audience.

    Wrap up this activity with a class discussion. Make sure to emphasize important points on the differences between how the discovery is handled by different media types – going over differences in vocabulary and the degree to which the article gives specifics about how the discovery was made.

  3. Grading Rubric. The purpose of this section is not to teach students about the specifics of writing but rather to introduce them to the different media sources and analyze how various audiences influence writing styles of writers when presenting information. The session is based on students’ participation in the form of a whole class discussion and group work. Therefore, an informal assessment can be used based upon students’ verbal responses or points could be offered based upon correctness and/or completion of analysis questions. The following is a sample rubric one could use for very simplistic grading purposes.

    Questions Points
    13-14 4
    10-12 3
    6-9 2
    1-5 1

Student Handouts

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