Why stories are important in research writing

If you’re looking to communicate your research in a way that’s both engaging and informative, storytelling is the way. Don’t let academic writing hold you back – here are some practical tips to help you get started. Whether you’re a time-poor academic or an undergraduate student, these suggestions will help you explain the importance of your research to your audience (and yourself).

How does the idea of storytelling help you to describe your research?

Let’s look at the different parts of your research article in a little detail.

Your introduction

Focusing on your main story keeps your ideas tightly connected. Only refer to studies that specifically relate to your aim. Mentioning studies that have led to your research develops your story. Brief recounts of others’ work in a similar field may not be relevant.

Your method

When telling a story, it is important to give the deeper meaning about your research. For instance, instead of just describing your method, explain why you chose it over other methods.

Your results

Some say that the method you choose will determine the results you find. You know that is not true because you can get surprising findings. Many discoveries began as accidents, for example penicillin. When you report your results, avoid losing yourself in the details. It helps to draw up figures and tables first to check for main patterns.

Your discussion

Research writing guru Anna Clemens suggests that the discussion section is often shorter than it should be. Here are some questions to help you make the most of your research efforts:

What do your findings mean in the context of the literature? How do you explain the trends you have identified? How can your results be useful for a particular application? What is the big picture? What should be further investigated? Here is her complete article on discussion writing.

We leave the key elements in research articles to the discussion at the end while briefly introducing them in the abstract. But to attract a larger audience, Diana Brazell recommends starting with attention-grabbing information. What are the practical implications of your research?  How can you apply your research to real world examples? These questions might help to give more flow to your discussion and offer suggestions for future studies.

Monash University offers students some step by step guidance on report writing as well as many other kinds of academic writing, including annotated bibliographies, research proposals and literature reviews.

These are useful but so is the simple process of thinking about how you want to tell your research story. This storytelling approach can help you emphasise the overall significance of your work and open the door to writing if you are stuck in the details.