A feature article is composed in order to explain how something works or is developed over time, informing the public of something new and/or important, and interpreting complex information in an understandable and appealing way. Basically, you may be doing one or more of the following:
- describing the parts of your object and their interrelationships,
- tracing the history of the object and describing its changes,
- describing the object’s qualities and characteristics, and
- analysing the object’s value.
To achieve this effectively, use a combination of the following strategies.
(1) Define terms and differentiate them from other similar ones. This is very useful while writing about a large topic with many subdivisions, aspects and categories. By defining it, you are specifying the parameters in which you will explain it. Consider using sentence or paragraph-length definitions for complicated topics, and parenthetical definitions for less complicated ones.
(2) Give an analogy. For example, using the same principle as an overhead projector, an epidiascope projects three-dimensional images onto a screen using a magnified beam of light. This gives the reader the gist of what you are saying and makes complicated terms and processes easier to grasp. In the same light, you can contrast the term to what it is opposite to or different from.
(3) Give examples that illustrate the functions or properties of the topic you are explaining. This helps the reader put the topic in context and thus relate to it better.
(4) Compare the topic with others to show its special features or common attributes. As with analogies, comparisons are useful in helping the reader classify the topic in a category with which s/he is familiar, and/or to understand the innovation or specific nature of the described object.
(5) Describe the properties/qualities of an object or situation and detail how it works or how it occurs and under what circumstances.
(6) Suggest reasons for a situation or development. This is useful when you think the reader is likely to ask the question ‘why’. It justifies a current state of affairs by explaining what caused it to come into being.
(7) Tell a story that illustrates your discussion. This is useful in making conceptual information more concrete by describing a ‘physical’ situation where the ideas you are talking about were at play. Stories are very effective in assisting the reader to visualise and, therefore, to better understand, your description.
(8) Describe a process. This is a way to show how something is done, a protocol or procedure. Describing processes also comes into play when giving instructions on how to conduct a task.
(9) Describe applications. This emphasises the practical aspects of research, by showing how inventions and discoveries can be used in everyday life.
(10) Use visual aids, such as a diagram or photograph. If you choose this strategy, make sure you explain in your text what the visual is intended to show and how it fits in your written explanation. To avoid digressing from your text to explain a diagram, consider using side-bars that contain visuals and text, and provide self-sufficient information that complements the information presented in the body of the article.