By Lucas Keijning

Science journalists and science communicators can learn a lot from storytelling techniques used in blockbuster movies made in Hollywood. That, in short is the message of Randy Olson – a marine biology professor turned film-maker. To make it simple, he uses the ABT Framework, which is short for: AND, BUT and THEREFORE. 

Randy Olson

On Friday March 12th, Randy Olson joined us – 20+ participants from all over Europe – for a Q&A session on his ABT Framework. Randy Olson wrote several books on storytelling (Don’t be such a scientist; Houston, We Have a Narrative). So, we were thrilled to hear him out about his ideas. He explained us how three simple words can help us to build compelling narratives. In short, AND, BUT and THEREFORE are indicators of three main ingredients for a narrative: agreement, contradiction and consequence.


First, if you want to tell a story, especially a scientific story, it is important to connect with your audience. Especially if that audience is not in your inner circle, but consists of people that are not necessarily interested in what you have to say about a quirky technology or a scientific discovery in a niche they have never even heard of. You introduce your topic or field of research by giving examples the reader (or listener) knows from their daily live. And you connect all these things by using the word AND. For example: The world’s population is growing more and more AND this make that resources for people can get scarce AND etc.


Then, you will focus more on what your story will be about. Here comes the BUT. In our example we could say something like: BUT there is a new technology called X, which makes food cheaper and more abundant. Done in the right way, chances are big that you will have the attention of the reader or listener.


Then, to make your story complete, you go to the THEREFORE part. Here you spell out what the consequences are of your argument. In our example, this might be: we need to give this technology a chance.

Want to know more?

Of course, this summary is way too short to give you a proper idea of how the ABT can really help you. But we have good news for you. A new book by Randy Olson is available for you right here: Narrative Gym, the book (PDF). And if that isn’t enough, you can access the Narrative Gym, the fulfilment as well.

With his team, Randy Olson trains people with the ABT framework in Story Circles. Please visit to learn more.

A special session

This session was the first session organised by the VWN (Association for Science Journalism and Communication Netherlands) in which all members of the associations that are associated with the EFSJ (European Federation for Science Journalism) could join. Something that is worth repeating.