Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Big Ideas: Writing Popular Science
Academic Year
Semester 2
Reading List

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Coursework Assignment  demonstrating the techniques taught over the module (2,500 words) with a creative commentary (1500 words). 4000 Words  100%
Supplementary Assessment Coursework Assignment  demonstrating the techniques taught over the module (2,500 words) with a creative commentary (1500 words). 4000 Words  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Demonstrate an ability to write using the techniques appropriate and specific to popular science non-fiction.

Demonstrate an understanding of the popular science book proposal and publication process.

Demonstrate an ability to conduct thorough and appropriate research on a scientific topic.

Show a sound understanding of popular science through comprehensive reading in the genre.

Demonstrate, through exercises and workshops, an ability to improve their writing following feedback.

Brief description

Popular science non-fiction finds the story within data and discovery, and presents 'big ideas' in clear, engaging and accessible writing. These books help the general public to appreciate advances in technology, medicine and space travel, and to understand issues such as the climate crisis, data privacy, and pandemics. This module explores the techniques of effective popular science writing, from initial research to the publication process. Students will develop their skills in translating complex ideas into simple narratives, producing writing that is timely and informative while also being as gripping to read as any thriller novel. From selecting a topic to finding their voice, students will be able to explore the major techniques and have their writing workshopped by their peers and the tutor.


This module offers students the opportunity to develop their voice and technique in communicating scientific topics to a general readership. By examining writers of the genre such as Maggie Aderin-Pocock and Hannah Fry, this module will allow students to understand how to write popular science well and get it published. This module will consist of 10 2-hour sessions. Each session will have a discussion of the week's topic and set reading, as well as exercises and opportunities for students to receive feedback on their ideas and writing. By the end of the module, students will have the beginnings of a popular science non-fiction book proposal and the knowledge of how to submit it for publication.


1. What is Popular Science?
Introductory session

2. And Why Should We Care?
Hannah Fry's 'Hello World'

3. Finding Your Voice
Maggie Aderin-Pocock's 'Book of the Moon'

4. The Proposal
This session introduces students to the popular science proposal, from summaries to writing samples.

5. Turning Research into a Story (i)
Guy Leschziner's The Nocternal Brain.

6. Turning Research into a Story (ii)
Students will look at the overall thread of their book.

7. Workshop

8. Case Study: Writing the Climate Crisis
David Wallace-Wells' 'The Uninhabitable Earth'

9. Next Steps
Publishing industry, rounding up, etc

10. Workshop
Students will workshop their writing sample.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Adaptability and resilience Understanding scientific concepts and developing the skills to turn them into accessible narratives.
Co-ordinating with others Participating in discussion, and giving and receiving feedback in class.
Creative Problem Solving Students will consider how to turn research into creative narratives.
Critical and analytical thinking Demonstrate an ability to work with both scientific concepts and successful communication and storytelling techniques.
Digital capability Students will use digital technology for writing and research.
Professional communication Students will learn how to communicate concepts and data effectively.
Real world sense Demonstrate an understanding of why popular science is such a successful and widely read genre.
Reflection Reflect on the discussions, reading, and feedback given in class.
Subject Specific Skills Demonstrate an ability to combine thorough research with clear and engaging writing.


This module is at CQFW Level 6