Freelance Science Journalism

Pitch an article to a popular science magazine editor


Editors want to publish new knowledge and refreshing perspectives. Do you have something new to offer to the discussions that are happening in the scientific field?

The Exercise

Find a newly published research article. Pitch the story for publication on the Blog Network for Discover Magazine. For this exercise, you are an aspiring freelance journalist.

Task 1: Find an article

Find an article that is something new that will potentially garner public attention, but is not already being covered by major news outlets.

Task 2: Write the pitch

A pitch provides the flavor of the story, and a brief description of why the publisher should be interested. Identify reasons that the article is novel, timely, relevant, and appropriate to the audience of the venue. If appropriate, create a list of sources for interviews, and write a list of questions for your interviewees. Include reasons why you are qualified to write the article.

Guiding principles:

  • Interest the audience immediately, so start with the punchline.
  • Include a rationale on the timeliness of the article.
  • Answer why the subject you’re writing about is novel or of interest to the audience.

Task 3: Brainstorm titles

A title can make or break whether the story gets read by the audience or picked up by other news sources. Keep the type of media where your article will be featured in mind as well as the audience. Write out 10 possible titles for your article. Remember, these titles could have different uses, such as one for Twitter and another destined for the website.

Task 4: Write the first two paragraphs of the article

The Deliverable


The pitch should be brief and clear: 150 words or 3-4 sentences. A pitch is not a full article. The deliverable should allow the editor to clearly answer these questions.

  • What is the significance of the result, and how is it interesting to the audience? Is it relevant to the journal’s audience?
  • Is there previous data on the subject, or is it really a new result? Do you think the results are sufficiently sound to report on widely?
  • Is there already interest on social media – Twitter, Facebook, Reddit? Is it the kind of article that could be shared by Facebook or Twitter users?

Sample Deliverable 1

Sample Deliverable 2



Skills used to perform this task:

  • Clear, written communication
  • Knowledge of trends in science
  • Writing concisely

Skills needed in Science Journalism field:

Additional responsibilities

A professional in the field of freelance science journalism may also perform these activities:

  • Identifying stories from press releases and conferences
  • Interviewing sources
  • Conducting research for science reporting

Read more about careers in Science Communication at Duke University Career Center.

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Simulation author: Liz Silva, PhD

Simulation vetted by professionals in the Bay Area.