Storytelling in Science Popularisation: The Role of Personal Narratives in TED Talks

Giuseppina Scotto di Carlo


This paper investigates the use of storytelling in TED talks, popularising speeches aiming at knowledge dissemination. Through the analysis of the corpus of TED talks delivered in 2012, this paper illustrates how TED speakers use stories to construct their relationship with their audiences. Using Eggins and Slade’s (1997) theories on storytelling, which divide stories in recounts, narratives, exempla, and anecdotes, the paper analyses how TED speakers use storytelling as a strategy to disseminate knowledge, inspire, and enrich the listeners’ learning process while creating strong ties with them. In particular, the paper focusses on personal recounts and anecdotes, which are used to establish credibility among the audience, by introducing the speakers’ identity and the genuine purpose for which they are going to give the talk. They capture the audience’s attention by talking about unusual or extraordinary events. The analysis suggests that personal narratives help TED speakers connect with their audiences, contributing to their dissemination and thus to the overall purpose of knowledge dissemination.


TED talks; science popularisation; storytelling; expert/non-expert interaction

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