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Dr Charlotte Thorley @cprthorley
, 18 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
Are you a #scientist trying to write up your #publicengagement or #rri work for publication? Some thoughts (a thread)
Most of the papers I review are either incredibly dense with theory and mathematical jargon, or treated as a chance to show off about a fun thing you did. I'd like to make the case that something in between these is needed.
When papers are swamped in technical language, it can give the impression that the writer has quite a limited point of view on what is publishable and possibly is uncertain of the validity of the approach they took.
This is true of people from every research area, by the way. There is a tendency to stick to what you know/trust. So, overuse of numbers by some, or drowning a process in social constructs for others.
Those that are written as a "look at this great thing we did" paper are as bad, but this time with lack of rigour instead of too much. In these cases, it feels as though the writer thinks engagement isn't worth taking seriously, so doesn't bother to apply the same thought.
My advice? Like any research publication, you need to think about your audience. Why are you writing this paper? Just to get published? If so, try again! What is going to make people read this paper?
Are you writing so others can also try your approach? I'm sorry to tell you this, but it's almost 100% the case that you are not the first person to do this type of engagement.
Having said that, there will be elements you did differently. Did you do market research? Did you change the audience/participants? Did you try a new type of collaboration, or funding, or location? Tell us about why that made a difference, and how we can replicate it.
Tell us if it didn't work! Tell us what you have learnt, and how you have developed your practice as a result.
If you collected data during your project, don't just present it as facts. Put it in context. Who else has published similar papers and what did they find? What else do you know about the type of engagement you did? Did you find this out before, or during your engagement?
Try to talk about your participants, don't over generalise!
Connect your data up: What do you know about your participants and how does this affect their responses to your activity? Is there data you wish you had collected? What were the limitations of the collection process you used? Why did you choose that process if it has limitations?
From the other perspective, its good to remember that if someone else is going to learn from your experience your paper needs to be readable. Justifying your approach is important, but not at the expense of losing your audience.
Engagement is inter-, multi- and transdisciplinary. Try to write as though you are writing for someone outside of your own research area. You can assume that they want some rigour and replicability, but it's not a thesis, you don't need to over-defend it.
Keep to what is needed. What did you do, and how? Why did you do this, in this way? What did you find out along the way? What next? Once you've got the basics in place, then make it your own.
Public engagement literature is dispersed throughout many fields, and hard to find at the best of times. I think if the field is to progress we all need to write for each other, so that learning is shared across disciplines.
And finally... read!! Read about engagement. You are not the only one out there doing this, and you might find inspiration, support, time-saving, resource-saving information out there to help you. Papers, blogs, grey literature... all good, if not traditional, references.
None of this is particularly new thinking, but it still surprises/disappoints me when very intelligent people don't apply the same level of thinking to their engagement as they do to their research, and that goes for writing it up too!
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