Presenting scientific information to the lay public is difficult and one reason is the difference between popular or as sometimes called topical articles and peer reviewed or as sometimes called scientific articles. A popular article is written for a wide audience, while the peer reviewed article that appears in a scientific journal is targeted to a narrow audience in the scientific fields. This paper focuses on two different articles about the same subject – keeping the brain healthy and young through exercise. One article appeared in Newsweek and the other appeared in a peer reviewed journal. The Newsweek article, “Can You Build a Better Brain” by Sharon Begley, is written for a wide audience (Begley, 2011). The article by Arthur F. Kramer, Kirk I. Erickson, and Stanley J. Colcombe is intended for the scientific community, and appeared in the Journal of Applied Physiology (Kramer, Erickson and Colcombe, 2006).
With an aging population in the United States, the interest in keeping brain functions sharp within the growing elderly population is keen, but not all presentations of information about this subject are the same. Often the onus of making information understandable is placed on an editor or a third party to make the material understandable to the average person. In addition, sometimes a complaint is lodged against the scientist for writing just for other scientists and not making the work accessible to the average public. Using the two specific examples cited above, I will demonstrate that the popular or topical article, published in popular media, is akin to a shotgun blast or tossing a great deal of something on the wall in the hopes something sticks, because that article must be widely distributed. ...
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...cused and even dull topics are what scientific journal writing is all about. Like any other specialty product that has inelastic demand in the market, science articles are like salt. You don’t need to make it sexy and you don’t have to market it; just put it in the little blue cans with the Morton Salt Girl printed on the container and it sells. That’s why Begley advertises one thing and is selling something else, her potential reads have lots of choices, so she fires as wide as possible. Kramer, Kirk, and Colcombe have a captured market and write for that small market.
Begley, S. (2011, January 6). Can you build a better brain? Newsweek. Retrieved from
Kramer, A., Kirk, E., & Colcombe S. (2006). Exercise, cognition, and the aging brain. Journal of
Applied Physiology, 101, 1237-1242.
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