Writing for us

Thank you for your interest in contributing to EvoBites! To start off, please read the following, which discusses what pieces to the site should look like and be about. Once you are confident that you wish to write for EvoBites, please submit an application here.

What is EvoBites? The goal of EvoBites is to “digest” primary literature in evolutionary biology into something an educated layperson can understand. It is loosely based on the format of our sister site astrobites.

What should you write about? Any paper related to evolutionary biology, as long as you are confident that you have a good understanding of the primary article (and research field it discusses) that you have chosen. Writing about fields that are related to evolutionary biology, such as evolutionary anthropology or paleontology, is welcome, so long as the article is still clearly relevant to evolution and biology.

How should you write your article? Be clear, engaging, and avoid jargon, but without overly simplifying–no small task! Getting the science right is the most important thing, but of course, making people actually want to read your piece is crucial too.  Here are some science writing tips (as graciously provided by Dr. Melody Jue, UCSB):

  • Think of yourself as a storyteller, not just a scientist
  • Take time to imagine your audience. Pick a friend who is educated, but not a scientist, and imagine describing your paper to them.
  • Start with an evocative moment, what is exciting about this paper? Does it relate to your own research? What attracted you to this paper?
  • Consider strong analogies to relate to daily life.
  • Ditch the passive voice! Put the subject back into the sentence.
    • Passive voice: “A new technique was tested at the University of Michigan.”
    • Active voice: “Two young researchers tested a new technique at the University of Michigan.”
  • Read other science writers. What makes their writing enjoyable, how do they bring excitement to the mundane? Some favorites of other contributors: Rachel Carson, Ed Yong, Jonathan Weiner, Sy Montgomery.
  • Don’t be afraid to let your own voice come through your blog post
  • People are interested in themselves. How does your paper relate to people’s every-day life?

How do I choose an article from the primary literature?

  • Write about articles that cover real natural phenomena. This means that review articles and perspective-style articles are likely a poor fit. In order to avoid providing any false impressions of where the field currently is, try to find papers that reflect the field’s current understanding. Newer papers are more likely to do this, although older papers are fine so long as they fit this criterion.
  • Stick with papers and topics that you understand. You will probably be most comfortable in your own field, but you are free to write about any paper that you can comprehend critically.
  • Note that open access articles are convenient because readers can access the original articles and it is automatically legal for Evo Bites to reproduce the figures. However, we understand that a great deal of biological research is not open access, and you should feel free to pick any paper that you feel confident writing about.

How should you format your article? Follow the example of the articles already on the site. Generally, articles should be about 500-800 words, and written such that an educated audience without biology degrees can understand them.

What happens once I write an article? You will be paired with an editor who will edit your piece for content as well as copy edit it for grammar, flow, clarity, etc. You should expect 2-3 rounds of edits.

Alright! I’m ready to get started: Don’t forget to submit an application! We will be in touch with you shortly after receiving it.