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An introduction to disseminating research

Dissemination is a critical step in any research activity

The purpose of disseminating research is to achieve a good impact, an essential aspect of any research. Sharing the main implications and focus of research can diminish the gap between research and practice.

Key considerations include:

  • What is your audience?
  • What about your research participants?
  • How are you going to let others know about your findings: in writing, verbally, using film, at a meeting, or conference, via a professional network, in an academic journal, a professional magazine, newsletter/poster/leaflet or writing a briefing? There are many possibilities.

Dissemination Resources

Conferences

Talking the Talk: Tips on Giving a Successful Conference Presentation - by the American Psychological Association

Professional magazines

RCSLT guidelines for writing up your evaluations for The Bulletin

Peer reviewed articles

Open access

Social media

  • Watch this video for tips for engagement around research via social media, at events.
  • Guide to using Twitter - London School of Economics
  • The Knowledge Network via NHS Education for Scotland has some tips for disseminating knowledge via social media.

Publishing research and evaluations

Professor Nikki Botting - previous editor of the International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders

Coordinating your research

Evaluations of your own clinical work (where you have not changed anything about your practice but just measured before and after therapy) do not typically need ethical approval. However these are also not the strongest research designs. Ideally you need a control baseline, or a control-group to test whether it’s really the intervention working.

  • Small caseloads are often difficult to publish, but don’t forget that you can add several caseloads together if the therapy/assessments are the same. These could be your own caseloads over time, or caseloads from different team members.
  • Contact university teams to conduct joint research but remember that academic teams will need at least 6-12 months before a therapy starts, in order to help you organise an evaluation.
  • Your assessments and outcome measures need to be systematic (same for all participants). You also need enough information about the participants so don’t forget to note down factors like age, cognitive ability, social status, time in therapy and primary language.
  • Keep it simple! You need to make sure the research questions you want to answer are very specific and answerable using the data you will collect. Clear, comprehensive and complete data sets using a few measures are much better than studies that have attempted too much and have lots of missing data.
  • Your literature review needs to be comprehensive and your methods section needs to be replicable – i.e. could someone else carry out your study exactly just by reading your paper?
  • Get some advice on statistical analysis – this aspect is important because it shows that your findings are too robust to just be random.
  • In your discussion try to think of alternative reasons for your findings, e.g. could it just be the task you used? Could the sample be biased? Acknowledging these limitations is considered good science. The content of your paper needs to add to the knowledge base. So, if you have found the same as several other studies, this is less likely to be published.

Submitting to a journal

  • Have a look at the layout / format used in the published papers of that journal and copy it.
  • Look at the guidelines for authors for the journal you intend to submit to and follow them.
  • Don’t send whole MSc dissertations as if they are papers. Even dissertations written in journal style will need adjusting.

The peer-review process

  • All respected papers are peer-reviewed. At IJLCD this process is double blind so you don’t know who reviews the paper and they don’t know who wrote it. In some journals reviewers are told authors names.
  • Reviewers are asked to critique the paper, so they do just that – don’t be disheartened if your paper has lots of revisions needed. This is actually a very good result. Less than 1% papers are accepted with no changes at all. Papers take around a year from submission to publication online. IJLCD currently accepts around 30% of all submissions. We never turn down papers that we think are of high enough quality for IJLCD. Some journals accept more papers and others accept as few as 5% and the reasons for rejection differ. So if your paper isn’t accepted, revise it and send it to another journal.

Maximising online readership

According to Mark Sweeney, Senior Journals Publishing Assistant, Wiley:

  • Be search‐engine friendly - See Wiley’s guide on optimizing your article for search engines
  • Broadcast your article - record a podcast using free online software, and post on YouTube
  • Send the URL of your published article, not the PDF to your students and/or colleagues
  • Add links to your staff profile page on your employer’s website or on your personal webpage/blog
  • Add links to your most recent publications in your email signature
  • Link your article from your social networking profiles, such as Facebook or Linkedln
  • Tweet the URL and encourage colleagues to re‐tweet, particularly those who have large numbers of followers
  • Add your article to social bookmarks, such as StumbleUpon or del.icio.us
  • If your article is relevant to a topic on Wikipedia, add the article to the bibliography for that entry
  • Contact bloggers/listers/moderators in your field to see if they are interested in reviewing your publication or posting a link to your article

Tips from RCSLT

Other resources

Research impact

What is Research Impact?

Research impact tackles the ‘so what?’ of research. It can be thought of in terms of academic impact, and societal and economic impact (Research Councils UK).

  • Academic Impact: The demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to academic advances, across and within disciplines, including significant advances in understanding, methods, theory and application.
  • Societal and economic Impact: The demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy. Economic and societal impacts embrace all the extremely diverse ways in which research-related knowledge and skills benefit individuals, organisations and nations.

The Research Excellence Framework 2014 (REF 2014) defines impact as being:

“Any effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia.”

The impact of research can include influencing policy, practice or service provision as well as the development of skills through capacity building (Economic and Social Research Council, ESRC, 2015).

Research impact is becoming increasingly important to researchers and to the research funder. It has huge potential for driving research that is closely linked to service delivery and outcomes.

Close engagement with potential research users before, during and after the research process is part of ensuring the impact of research. See our patient and public involvement page to find out more.

What’s the difference between applied research, knowledge exchange and impact?

Applied research addresses specific questions that have direct applications to the world. Applied research is likely to have a greater impact on society and the economy.

Knowledge exchange is ‘the enabling of two way exchange between researchers and research users to share ideas, research evidence, experiences and skills' (ESRC, 2015). Knowledge exchange is “fundamental” to understanding what makes excellent research (ESRC, 2015). It’s a process that contributes to the impact of research and is needed to get research into policy and practice.

Part of your knowledge exchange process is likely to include using Theory of Change and Stakeholder Mapping.

For more information on Knowledge Exchange see the ESRC Tips for doing knowledge exchange.

How is research impact measured?

Research Excellence Framework

One way that research impact is measured is through the Research Excellence Framework (REF). This system measures the quality of research in publicly funded UK Higher Education Institutions and was first carried out in 2014. Information from the REF informs how funding is allocated by higher education funding bodies in all four nations.

It is carried out via a process of expert panel review (including senior academics, international members and research users) for each topic listed under the 34 subject-based units of assessment (e.g. Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing & Pharmacy).

For each submission to REF, three elements are assessed:

  1. The quality of outputs (e.g. publications, performances, and exhibitions)
  2. Their impact beyond academia
  3. The environment that supports research.

See the results from REF2014 here.

The next REF will be carried out in 2021.

Find the latest REF2021 news here.

Impact Assessors

Some tools have been created to help you collate information for your impact reporting to REF, for example ResearchFish.

Impact case studies from speech and language therapy research

Find out more from The Research Council UK, which has information on research impact and impact case studies.