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ADRC Wales researchers writing for The Conversation

Written by Cat Wilkins, ADRC-Wales

Email: c.j.wilkins@swansea.ac.uk


ADRC Wales researchers attended a workshop exploring ways to reach relevant and specialist audiences and gain international exposure via The Conversation.

Welsh editor, Ruth Dawson described the benefits of writing for the academic media platform The Conversation to a room full of researchers in the ADRC Wales Data Science Building in Swansea.

‘The Conversation is all about helping researchers to move forward with their research.’

‘We are interested in insight, analysis, or comment on stories in the news, explanation and analysis of new academic research, and discussion of interesting ideas, questions and stories.’

‘Academics are in a fantastic position with access to places journalists would never get to go.’

The Conversation readership

The Conversation is an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public. With 29m unique visitors to date and an average 1.3m monthly visitors the readership reach is extensive.

Articles written by Swansea University researchers have received 2.6m reads since publications began last year. These research-based articles have reached an international audience with 80% of readers residing outside the UK.

Why publish your research in The Conversation?

As a news resource for mainstream media to republish articles under Creative Commons, there is enormous potential for researchers to reach an even wider global audience as The Conversation articles are picked up by large UK media organisations such as The Independent, The Guardian and the MailOnline.

International republishers include The Huffington Post, The Hindu, The Washington Post and The Herald.

The platform benefits researchers and creates opportunities in a number of ways:

  • Increased downloads and citations – there is a direct correlation to increasing citations for Swansea University publishers
  • Publish link to direct readers to research project
  • Contact from researchers at other institutions about working together
  • Publication in mainstream and specialist media
  • Widespread exposure and global readership
  • Author profile and direct contact button

Ruth explained how one Swansea academic was invited to give a TedX talk following publication on the site.

‘The Conversation offers far-reaching opportunity for researchers and academics to engage the right people in their research, globally.’

Writing guidelines for researchers

The process of writing for The Conversation can help researchers perfect a new way of writing as writing for the media is very different to writing for an academic paper.

The workshop gave recommendations on how to pitch, plan and structure articles to suit the readership.

Journalistic writing follows the news pyramid. Flip around an academic paper. Put the most important bits first. Start at the end. What was the outcome, result, and conclusion? What have you learned? 

Keeping engagement of online readers is tricky as they can be fickle. Researchers can learn a few tricks to keep them reading:

  • Write a short piece of 600-800 words pitched to an educated 16 year old audience
  • Write in the first person, don’t quote yourself
  • Simplify language, not ideas
  • Explain specialist terms and don’t use jargon or acronyms
  • Imagine how you would explain your research to the man on the street and avoid an overly formal or didactic tone
  • Give answers not rhetorical questions
  • Don’t use semi-colons (that is just a list of things in a paragraph)

Feel free to have an opinion but back it up with facts. And don’t be scared of humour!

A collaborative effort

Researchers can get in touch with Ruth, providing a link to a research paper, and work on an article together. This collaboration of expertise delivers a combination of academic rigour and journalistic flair.

The Conversation can also help with imagery and other digital content such as video.

Posting and publishing

With its easy to use content management system (CMS), researchers can preview their article exactly as it will appear on the website when it’s published and track history for previous edits and original version.

The researcher is in complete control, nothing will appear after publication which you haven’t approved. You include full disclosure about funding, who you work for, etc. so there is complete transparency about who you are and what you’re doing.

The timing of publication can mean the difference between 1000 and 10,000 reads. Think about a good time to publish your research. Why now? What makes it relevant at that time?

Equally, timeless articles are appealing. Articles on anything you think the general public doesn’t know about that’s really important.

Getting exposure

Once published, you can work on promoting your story through social media.

If researchers are lucky enough to have their article picked up by a popular media outlet, when they republish the article they can’t change any of the content (apart from the headline).

The Conversation is an opportunity to tell the world about your research. Create new opportunities for impact, and reach the general public and new, relevant audiences amongst researchers, students, institutions, organisations, policy makers and funders.

Publishing in The Conversation is about the quality of readers you reach not just the quantity, although you could get read thousands of times.

The opportunities are there.

Our thanks to Ruth Dawson, Welsh Editor at The Conversation for delivering the session.


Written by Cat Wilkins from ADRC-Wales and published on the ADRN blog under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Images used with permission.


Page last updated: 27/10/2017