Flipping the Scientific Method

by Brittany Moor

I studied science in university, and I had to write a lot. My university experience was filled with lab reports, research papers, formal and informal scientific presentations, proposals, essay questions… the list goes on. To achieve top marks, I was taught that my writing method should mimic the scientific method: present my conclusions and recommendations at the very end of my document. When I started working in the real world, I began to realize this method didn’t work as well as I thought, and I struggled to present myself as a credible professional.

At work, I discovered that my audience, purpose and expectations for writing changed dramatically. I wasn’t trying to impress a faceless teaching assistant and get good grades. The people I wrote to did not care how I did something, or why, and they didn’t always need me to include a bunch of facts, statistics or scientific jargon as background information. They wanted to know what’s in it for them – right up front.

Luckily, my career path led me to Wavelength, and I found a new formula that worked every time, for every business document and presentation. Essentially, I flipped the scientific method on its head. I now consider what my audience needs from me, and I put my conclusions and recommendations – my bottom line – up front. This means there’s a much greater chance my message will engage their interest. It also means I can minimize misunderstanding: when the audience knows what they’re looking for, there’s a much higher chance they’ll find it.

Often, we bury the bottom line at the very end because drafting is a process of discovery, where you clarify your thoughts as you articulate them in words. Through the drafting process, your conclusion or discovery in a first draft becomes a finding or recommendation in later drafts. As you revise and refine your document, much of the body will need to be reframed to support the bottom line. Even when you need to follow a specific template or format, you can still bottom line your document. Consider who your audience is and what they need from your document; what questions will they want answered? Keep these details in mind and use the answers to form your document. Each section and paragraph should start with the bottom line.

Even though the scientific method produces excellent science, it isn’t a reliable communication technique in the real world. By flipping the scientific method, we become credible professionals who engage our audiences and give them what they want.

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