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What you need to know about research dissemination

Last updated

5 March 2024

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Hugh Good

Once a piece of research is finished, the key findings need to be shared. Whether this is with a small number of peers, a larger group of stakeholders, or with the public, the dissemination process takes careful planning and execution.

In this article, we'll tell you what you need to know about research dissemination.

Understanding research dissemination

Research that never gets shared has limited benefits. Research dissemination involves sharing research findings with the relevant audiences so the research’s impact and utility can reach its full potential.

When done effectively, dissemination gets the research into the hands of those it can most positively impact. This may include:

  • Academics

  • Businesses

  • Politicians

  • Industry professionals

  • The general public

What it takes to effectively disseminate research will depend greatly on the audience the research is intended for. When planning for research dissemination, it pays to understand some guiding principles and best practices so the right audience can be targeted in the most effective way.

Core principles of effective dissemination

Effective dissemination of research findings requires careful planning. Before planning can begin, researchers must think about the core principles of research dissemination and how their research and its goals fit into those constructs.

Research dissemination principles can best be described using the 3 Ps of research dissemination.

Purpose

This pillar of research dissemination is about clarifying the objective. What is the goal of disseminating the information? Is the research meant to:

  • Persuade policymakers?

  • Influence public opinion?

  • Support strategic business decisions?

  • Contribute to academic discourse? 

Knowing the purpose of sharing the information makes it easy to accurately target it and align the language used with the target audience.

Process

The process includes the methods that will be used and the steps taken when it comes time to disseminate the findings. This includes the channels by which the information will be shared, the format it will be shared in, and the timing of the dissemination.

By planning out the process and taking the time to understand the process, researchers will be better prepared and more flexible should changes arise.

People

The target audience is whom the research is aimed at. Because different audiences require different approaches and language styles, identifying the correct audience is a huge factor in the successful dissemination of findings.

By tailoring the research dissemination to the needs and preferences of a specific audience, researchers increase the chances of the information being received, understood, and used.

Types of research dissemination

There are many options for researchers to get their findings out to the world. The type of desired dissemination plays a big role in choosing the medium and the tone to take when sharing the information.

Some common types include:

  • Academic dissemination: Sharing research findings in academic journals, which typically involves a peer-review process.

  • Policy-oriented dissemination: Creating documents that summarize research findings in a way that's understandable to policymakers.

  • Public dissemination: Using television and other media outlets to communicate research findings to the public.

  • Educational dissemination: Developing curricula for education settings that incorporate research findings.

  • Digital and online dissemination: Using digital platforms to present research findings to a global audience.

  • Strategic business presentation: Creating a presentation for a business group to use research insights to shape business strategy

Major components of information dissemination

While the three Ps provide a convenient overview of what needs to be considered when planning research dissemination, they are not a complete picture.

Here’s a more comprehensive list of what goes into the dissemination of research results:

  • Audience analysis: Identifying the target audience and researching their needs, preferences, and knowledge level so content can be tailored to them.

  • Content development: Creating the content in a way that accurately reflects the findings and presents them in a way that is relevant to the target audience.

  • Channel selection: Choosing the channel or channels through which the research will be disseminated and ensuring they align with the preferences and needs of the target audience.

  • Timing and scheduling: Evaluating factors such as current events, publication schedules, and project milestones to develop a timeline for the dissemination of the findings.

  • Resource allocation: With the basics mapped out, financial, human, and technological resources can be set aside for the project to facilitate the dissemination process.

  • Impact assessment and feedback: During the dissemination, methods should be in place to measure how successful the strategy has been in disseminating the information.

  • Ethical considerations and compliance: Research findings often include sensitive or confidential information. Any legal and ethical guidelines should be followed.

Crafting a dissemination blueprint

With the three Ps providing a foundation and the components outlined above giving structure to the dissemination, researchers can then dive deeper into the important steps in crafting an impactful and informative presentation.

Let’s take a look at the core steps.

1. Identify your audience

To identify the right audience for research dissemination, researchers must gather as much detail as possible about the different target audience segments.

By gathering detailed information about the preferences, personalities, and information-consumption habits of the target audience, researchers can craft messages that resonate effectively.

As a simple example, academic findings might be highly detailed for scholarly journals and simplified for the general public. Further refinements can be made based on the cultural, educational, and professional background of the target audience.

2. Create the content

Creating compelling content is at the heart of effective research dissemination. Researchers must distill complex findings into a format that's engaging and easy to understand. In addition to the format of the presentation and the language used, content includes the visual or interactive elements that will make up the supporting materials.

Depending on the target audience, this may include complex technical jargon and charts or a more narrative approach with approachable infographics. For non-specialist audiences, the challenge is to provide the required information in a way that's engaging for the layperson.

3. Take a strategic approach to dissemination

There's no single best solution for all research dissemination needs. What’s more, technology and how target audiences interact with it is constantly changing. Developing a strategic approach to sharing research findings requires exploring the various methods and channels that align with the audience's preferences.

Each channel has a unique reach and impact, and a particular set of best practices to get the most out of it. Researchers looking to have the biggest impact should carefully weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of the channels they've decided upon and craft a strategy that best uses that knowledge.

4. Manage the timeline and resources

Time constraints are an inevitable part of research dissemination. Deadlines for publications can be months apart, conferences may only happen once a year, etc. Any avenue used to disseminate the research must be carefully planned around to avoid missed opportunities.

In addition to properly planning and allocating time, there are other resources to consider. The appropriate number of people must be assigned to work on the project, and they must be given adequate financial and technological resources. To best manage these resources, regular reviews and adjustments should be made.

Tailoring communication of research findings

We’ve already mentioned the importance of tailoring a message to a specific audience. Here are some examples of how to reach some of the most common target audiences of research dissemination.

Making formal presentations

Content should always be professional, well-structured, and supported by data and visuals when making formal presentations. The depth of information provided should match the expertise of the audience, explaining key findings and implications in a way they'll understand. To be persuasive, a clear narrative and confident delivery are required.

Communication with stakeholders

Stakeholders often don't have the same level of expertise that more direct peers do. The content should strike a balance between providing technical accuracy and being accessible enough for everyone. Time should be taken to understand the interests and concerns of the stakeholders and align the message accordingly.

Engaging with the public

Members of the public will have the lowest level of expertise. Not everyone in the public will have a technical enough background to understand the finer points of your message. Try to minimize confusion by using relatable examples and avoiding any jargon. Visual aids are important, as they can help the audience to better understand a topic.

10 commandments for impactful research dissemination

In addition to the details above, there are a few tips that researchers can keep in mind to boost the effectiveness of dissemination:

  1. Master the three Ps to ensure clarity, focus, and coherence in your presentation.

  2. Establish and maintain a public profile for all the researchers involved.

  3. When possible, encourage active participation and feedback from the audience.

  4. Use real-time platforms to enable communication and feedback from viewers.

  5. Leverage open-access platforms to reach as many people as possible.

  6. Make use of visual aids and infographics to share information effectively.

  7. Take into account the cultural diversity of your audience.

  8. Rather than considering only one dissemination medium, consider the best tool for a particular job, given the audience and research to be delivered.

  9. Continually assess and refine your dissemination strategies as you gain more experience.

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