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Top writing tips: some simple questions

As we are maintaining more and more connections online, is it time to reach out and get your research in front of a larger audience? Or are you struggling to get across the main point of your research, why it is important, and how it fits into the bigger picture? Below are some ideas which come from the world of science journalism.

Without dumbing down your ideas, the approaches and questions posed can help to make your research meaningful to the general audience, who tend to enjoy reading the stories behind the science. Some of the questions can also help you to frame the bigger picture. For an academic piece, this can inform your introduction and conclusion.

You can either read this on my blog here or just scroll down.

Which questions help you to tell your research story?

These questions originally appeared on this website for science journalists.

Choose one research project and ask yourself:

How did you get involved?  What led you to look into this?

What did you find out? Was there a particular turning point where you noticed the importance of your result?

Why is this discovery important for everyday people? (In academic language, this could translate as the implications and practical applications).

How might we explain your findings in a way that a 12 year old person could understand?

Did anything surprising happen? Were there any unexpected obstacles? How did you overcome them?

What are the next steps for this research?

What do other researchers in your field say about this? Is there anyone who might think your results show something different?

Personally, what is the most exciting or surprising aspect of these results? How do they fit in with recent results by other researchers?

Are there any misunderstandings that you would like to clarify? (This could go in lots of directions).

Have you read enough questions now?

If not, Dr Anna Funk has also shared this great Twitter thread about favourite questions for journalists to ask scientists (which also means for scientists to ask themselves).

What else helps to get your message out there?

Finally, Dinsa Sachan has some tips about talking to the media about your research:

Prepare some talking points. Even if you are not asked about this, give these answers anyway.

Use everyday words, not formal ones. (My advice is if you use jargon, explain it).

Share something personal. It might be what surprised you about the research, what got you started in it, or maybe also mention a hobby. This offers a human touch.

Respect media ethics. You don’t need to approve what someone writes about your work before it is published. If they get it wrong, of course, email them politely requesting a correction.

Once the story is published, mention it on social media. If your institution has a communications office, let them know if you want to develop more buzz about your research.

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