Blogs provide an engaging entry route for people to find out more about your research – find out how to make a start
Blogs provide an engaging entry route for people to find out more about your research. They are quick to read, easy to understand and simple for you and your readers to share with contacts and social media platforms.
While research papers are important, they have a limited audience. They are often long, sometimes have dense and technical language and occasionally suffer from restricted access.
In contrast, a blog can succinctly introduce your findings, helping a wider audience find out about your work and leading those who want to find out more to read your full research paper.
Although blogs require a very different style of writing from a research paper, everyone can learn how to craft them and they are an exceptionally useful tool to have in your communications kit.
The below guide is based on the one created by the CREDS core team to help researchers at the centre introduce readers to their work:
What is a blog?
A blog is an opinion piece written in a conversational style. A blog is usually around 600-800 words long. It doesn’t have to be a finished argument – it can pose a question or be a commentary. You simply want to engage the reader and get them thinking.
Know your audience
Who are you writing for? What are they interested in? For example, you might want decision-makers in government to read your piece and introduce a new policy. Alternatively, you might want individuals to change what they do or how they think about something. Whoever you are aiming your blog at, try to imagine a specific person who fits in that target audience and write as though you are speaking directly to them.
Decide on a subject
Your blog should keep to a single subject or point and have a clear purpose, relevant to your experience and expertise. If you have lots of different things you want to cover, consider whether it would be best to cover them in separate blogs, or as a series of blogs.
Outline and organise the content
Create a list of everything you want to include. You could talk to a friend or into a voice recorder and outline your main points verbally, if that works better for you. Put the list into a logical order that leads readers from your first point through to your conclusions.
Write an introduction
Grab the reader’s attention with a compelling opening paragraph. If you lose the reader at this point, they will navigate away from the blog and are unlikely to return. Some researchers find it easiest to write the first paragraph last, once everything else is written, because the act of writing a blog can clarify your thoughts and messages.
Fill in the blanks
Using your outline, start filling in the blanks. Focus on the ideas you want to convey, not the quality of writing at this point. Keep the style conversational and break up the information using subheadings or lists so it doesn’t become a long, solid block of text.
Re-read and edit your post. Reading out loud can be a good way of spotting when a paragraph doesn’t flow. Explain any jargon (or avoid it entirely if possible) and check for typos, grammar or the repetition of particular words or phrases.
Give your article a title
This is your first chance to engage the reader. Your title needs to describe what the post is about but also be as short and interesting as possible.
Humour and controversy can grab people’s attention, but must be handled sensitively – once published, web content has a life of its own and cannot always be deleted later. In addition, not everything can be made to be humorous, and it’s more important to be short, clear and compelling than funny or controversial just for the sake of it.
Examples of great titles include:
- A study of 597 logos shows which kind is most effectiveOpens in a new tab
- How brutalist design is taking over the internetOpens in a new tab
- What happened when we stopped having meetings and sending emailsOpens in a new tab
Subheadings throughout the piece will help readers navigate through it, skip to sections which are of particular interest and encourage them to keep reading by highlighting interesting and compelling points.
Watch out for unnecessary visuals
It’s always tempting to liven up solid text with photos and images. While this works in print and pdfs, it doesn’t work on web pages. Research has shown that unless an image is very specifically related to the content, most people will ignore it. Readers have limited patience for irrelevant embellishments!
So, if you have an idea for a diagram or need a graphic to illustrate a particular point, then make sure it’s relevant and that you have permission to use it. Otherwise, the blog should be text only and that’s good practice.
Finish with a call to action
What do you want your reader to do next? The end of your blog should finish with a clear next step. This could be sharing the blog with their own networks, thinking about your messages, changing their behaviour or doing something specific (such as reading your research paper).
You may also be interested in our CREDS guide to promoting your research.
Banner photo credit: Olafur Eliasson at Tate Modern. Photo: Steph Ferguson