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Researchers ask students to “rewrite the headlines”

by on 2015/10/01

Rewrite the Headlines is a new competition aimed at encouraging undergraduate students to evaluate how the latest research is translated into headline news.

For the competition, entrants will prepare a short blog exploring a recent research finding which has been discussed in the media. The competition is open to students from universities across Scotland, and entries from all subject areas are encouraged. The aim is to allow students to showcase the skills they’ve developed during their undergraduate training in interpreting and evaluating research studies, and ensuring that these often complex findings are effectively communicated to different audiences.

The competition is being run by the academics and researchers behind Research the Headlines, a blog which discusses research and the media created by members of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Young Academy of Scotland.

The Research the Headlines group has prepared materials for students to guide themselves through the competition, which can be accessed from the competition website. Students are being encouraged to highlight good reporting, as well as identifying discrepancies between the research conducted and the way that’s been reported in the media. Where those have occurred, students will explore whether the misinterpretation may have come from the media reporting, or whether the research itself is lacking.

Dr Alan Gow, Associate Professor in Psychology in the School of Life Sciences at Heriot-Watt University, said, “We know that the media reporting of research can often be very good, but there are also a number of potential weak points in the process where inaccuracies sneak in. We know our students have the necessary skills in critically evaluating research, and we want to let them showcase those skills with this new competition.”

Dr Sinead Rhodes, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, School of Psychological Sciences and Health at the University of Strathclyde, added, “Often, the general public aren’t able to access the research findings on which many of the headlines that might affect their lives are based. We want to use our new competition to remind students they can, and should, always be critical consumers of information.”

The Rewrite the Headlines competition is supported by funding from the British Academy, with additional funding from the University of Strathclyde. It runs until 30 November 2015, with prizes being announced at an event in January 2016.

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Competition details can be accessed at https://researchtheheadlines.org/rewritetheheadlines, including full details of how students can take part. A short trailer promoting the competition can be viewed below.

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