Defining your communication goals
Determine your overall goals
- Determine the overall goals of your research. Questions that can be asked to clarify this include:
- What is main problem that your research is addressing? What are its main goals and sub-goals? What specifically is it seeking to clarify, improve or change, and how could this potentially impact different target groups?
- Consider the answers to these questions in terms of what you want to achieve with the communication of your research results. Questions to consider here include:
- Do you want to inform? Do you want to raise awareness of a problem and/or of a solution that your research has developed? Do you want to increase understanding of a topic or problem? Do you want to facilitate access to information?
- Do you want to achieve some type of reaction? Do you want to increase use and consultation of information? Do you want to propose solutions to particular problems? Do you want to influence behaviour? Do you want to influence decision making? Do you want to persuade? Do you want to trigger any opinion or change opinion?
- Do you want feedback? Do you want to transfer knowledge or exchange information? Do you want to launch a dialogue with practitioners?
- Identify the relation and collaboration with practitioners your communication should build (eg, expert-consultant, expert-trainer, joint-learning, best practice, theory development)?
- Consider relevant side-effects that your communication can achieve, such establishing a relation with practitioners, helping practitioners to adopt a different stance towards research, enabling practitioners to position themselves with regard to a topic, establishing recognition as an active provider of useful information.
Differentiate your communication goals
- Differentiate between your communication goals and your research goals. What practical use or application can your research results generate?
- Based on this, identify what part of your research results should be communicated. This will help you to select your messages and assemble the content of your communication.
- Prioritise your communication goals. Which one of your goals is the most feasible, necessary or relevant? This will also help you to define your target groups.
- Position your communication goals in time. Differentiate between short term and long term goals. Consider if/how your communication goals should build on or are independent from each other. This will help you to plan your communication activities.
- Consider the timing of achieving your communication goals within your research project: communication of research results does not only need to occur at the end of the project, it can also help to generate further results in the course of the project.
Formulate your communication goals
- Try to formulate your goals in a clear and concise sentence.
- Every goal should be specific, clear, measurable, feasible, results-orientated and time-limited, eg: “To achieve a 20% uptake of Practice X amongst national practitioners by 2013”.
- List the desired passive effect or active reaction to your communication. Try to be as specific as possible in the type and range of effect or action that you are targeting. Think of potential undesired effects your communication could have in pursuing its goal(s) and if necessary reformulate your goals in order to avoid these effects.
- Check the fit of these goals with your role as a scientist.
- How will you assess (monitor and measure) the achievement of these goals? Determine baselines against which you can measure your achievements. Think of ways of monitoring progress toward your goals. This is key to evaluate the performance of your communication, bothing during and after your communication activities.
Carrada, Giovani (2006): Communicating science. A scientist's survival kit. European Commission, Directorate-General for Research.
Hovland, Ingie (2005): Successful Communication. A Toolkit for Researchers and Civil Society Organisations. Overseas Development Institute (ODI).
Research Matters: The RM Knowledge Translation Toolkit: A Resource for Researchers. Chapter 6: Designing a Communications Strategy.
Roper, Laura (2002): Achieving successful academic-practitioner research collaborations. In CDIP 12 (3), pp. 338–345.
Smith, Cristine; Bingman, Beth; Beall, Kaye (2007): Research Utilization in the Field of Adult Learning and Literacy: Lessons Learned by NCSALL About Connecting Practice, Policy, and Research. NCSALL Occasional Paper. National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy. Cambridge, MA 02138.