Earth-Science Reviews, November 2012, Vol.115(3), pp.153-162
Reporting results and promoting ideas in science in general, and Earth science in particular, is treated here as storytelling. Just as in literature and drama, storytelling in Earth science is characterized by a small number of basic plots. Though the list is not exhaustive, and acknowledging that multiple or hybrid plots and subplots are possible in a single piece, eight standard plots are identified, and examples provided: cause-and-effect, genesis, emergence, destruction, metamorphosis, convergence, divergence, and oscillation. The plots of Earth science stories are not those of literary traditions, nor those of persuasion or moral philosophy, and deserve separate consideration. Earth science plots do not conform those of storytelling more generally, implying that Earth scientists may have fundamentally different motivations than other storytellers, and that the basic plots of Earth Science derive from the characteristics and behaviors of Earth systems. In some cases preference or affinity to different plots results in fundamentally different interpretations and conclusions of the same evidence. In other situations exploration of additional plots could help resolve scientific controversies. Thus explicit acknowledgement of plots can yield direct scientific benefits. Consideration of plots and storytelling devices may also assist in the interpretation of published work, and can help scientists improve their own storytelling.
Storytelling ; Earth Science ; Plot ; Narrative ; Scientific Communication ; Geology
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