Popular Press vs.
Scientific Journal Articles:
A Cholesterol Gene?
This web page was produced as an assignment
for an undergraduate course at Davidson College.
Endothelial lipase (LIPG)
Over the past
several years, numerous studies have found evidence suggesting that
endothelial lipase plays a large role in the metabolism of high density
lipoproteins (HDL) or what is frequently referred to as good
cholesterol. Specifically, studies have found that by knocking
out the LIPG gene (which encodes the protein, endothelial lipase) in
mice, levels of HDL-cholesterol increased significantly (Ma, et
al.). Decreased levels of HDL-cholesterol have been associated
with increased risk for a range of heart-related problems, including
atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction. Scientists are now
looking at the possibility of manipulating the LIPG gene as a means to
increase HDL production and thus decrease such aforementioned risks.
Interestingly enough, such information is presented
to the public in strikingly different ways depending on where one
looks. As one might very well guess, scientific journal articles
present information in a formal fashion, focusing on the scientific
procedure and data. Most frequently these articles revisit a
study that has been performed by the author(s), outlining the methods
used and discussing the results received. On the other end of the
spectrum is the popular press article, which tends to present
information in a highly generalized and non-scientific manner based on
the assumption that the majority of readers do not hold advanced
degrees in whatever scientific field the research pertains to. In
the case of endothelial lipase, the following scientific journal
article and popular press article are good examples for highlighting
their fundamental differences in presentation and content. Links
to both articles can be found within the references section at the
bottom of this page.
lipase is a major genetic determinant for high-density lipoprotein
concentration, structure, and metabolism," written by Ke Ma et al. and
published in the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences, the usual and accepted format for
scientific journal articles is followed; the article is introduced by
an abstract, which is then followed in order by the introduction,
materials and methods, results and discussion, acknowledgements, notes,
etc. Figures and tables are used extensively to better
demonstrate the data and evidence used to arrive at the authors'
conclusions. The use of first-person pronouns is reserved only
for the results and discussion section, and even then they are used
sparingly. The scientific journal article caters toward a rather
eductaed audience, assuming that the reader has significant experience
within the field that the article is written. It does not bother
to explain general terms, concepts, or methods.
published in the Toronto Star
newspaper is very basic and to the point, without much elaboration on
details. It presents the main ideas, gives some general
definitions, and even provides one example of statistical data.
Additionally, the newspaper article provides quotations, something that
the scientific journal article does not. However, the article is
primarily directed towards a rather lay audience.
As one might
easily see, the difference between the two articles is fundamentally
rooted in the manner in which each is read and by whom. Popular
press articles tend to be read quickly by a general audience trying to
simply get the jist of the latest news, whereas articles from
scientific journals are read primarily by those engaged in scientific
study and frequently for further research.