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NGSS Dimension 1: Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

DeeDee Whitaker
Product Content Specialist

April 2017

After the investigations and research are completed, scientists share their findings with peers through written publications, graphics, and/or oral presentations. Technical and scientific communication has guidelines to which students are not always exposed, so it is important to teach and model quality scientific and technical communication skills.
Share with students the tenets of good scientific and technical writing, oral presentation skills, and graphic design. These tips are synthesized from several sources and delineate the skills necessary to communicate scientific information effectively.
Written communication

  1. Plan. Take a minute to plan what you need to communicate to answer a question fully.
  2. Clarity. Avoid jargon, acronyms, and abbreviations.

    1. Don’t leave your answer open to multiple interpretations.
  3. Brevity. Use words efficiently. 

    1. Don’t use 2 words when 1 will do.
    2. Get down to the essential message you want the reader to know.
    3. Place the most important information first. 
    4. Combine overlapping sentences.
  4. Simplicity. Balance detail with clarity. 

    1. Put facts and data in context.
    2. Keep language simple. 
    3. Avoid abstract nouns and choose words with clear meanings. 
    4. Order the words in your sentences carefully. 
  5. Accuracy. Check your facts and data. 

    1. Be sure your numbers and decimal points are legible. 
    2. Every number requires a unit.
  6. Language. Avoid using it and this

    1. Use strong language.             
    2. The active voice is straightforward and stronger than the passive voice.
    3. Avoid excess words.
  7. Review. Take a minute and read your work to yourself, making sure the work is complete and logical. 

Oral presentation

  1. Plan, write, rehearse, and time your presentation.
  2. Be mindful of pace. Vary the pace of the presentation. Speak more slowly for emphasis.
  3. Project your voice. Raise and lower the volume for emphasis.
  4. Change pitch and inflection of your voice for emphasis.
  5. Pause to highlight or gain attention. 

Visual presentation

  1. Keep it simple. Have plenty of white space or negative space (no clutter).
  2. Keep the presentation short. Use about 10 slides if possible.
  3. Use a visual theme, but avoid using templates.
  4. Limit bullet points and text to 6 lines per slide. Slides are meant to support narration.
  5. Chunk material into small segments.
  6. Limit slide transitions and animation to 2 or 3 simple styles. Use the styles on a small proportion of slides.
  7. Use single images and quality graphics. Avoid clip art.
  8. Use color well. Include no more than 5 colors. Text and background should use contrasting colors to draw attention.
  9. If presenting in a darkened room, use a dark background with light text. If presenting in a lighted room, use a light background with dark text. Use cool colors for background and warm colors for text.
  10. Use a sans serif font and size appropriately 1 inch on the slide per 10 feet of viewing distance.
  11. Use appropriate charts:

    1. Pie charts to show percentages
    2. Vertical bars to show a change in quantity over time
    3. Horizontal bars to compare quantities
    4. Line charts to demonstrate trends
    5. Tables for side-by-side comparisons of quantitative data
  12. Prepare a document of presentation highlights to hand out after the talk.


“The fundamental purpose of scientific discourse is not the mere presentation of information and thought but rather its actual communication. It does not matter how pleased an author might be to have converted all the right data into sentences and paragraphs; it matters only whether a large majority of the reading audience accurately perceives what the author had in mind.”
—George Gopen and Judith Swan, “The Science of Scientific Writing”



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