Explaining your Research

Change how you talk about your research to make it come alive! The following tips will make it easier to explain your research and connect with audiences outside your area of science.

Use clear and simple language

Work out what you want to say, then boil it down into a clearer, more concise version. Keep going until it feels right.

Consider context

Respect your audience by not assuming any prior special knowledge of your topic. As science writer Tim Radford once said: “Don’t overestimate your reader’s knowledge and don’t underestimate their intelligence.”

Avoid jargon and don’t use acronyms

Using technical terminology distances you from your audience and distracts from your message. Think ahead about straightforward options to replace the jargon you rely on, because it can be hard to do this well under pressure.

Instead of saying…
Try saying…
Benthic On the seabed
Plasticity Ability to change
Hypoxic Low on oxygen
Macroscopic Visible
Anthropogenic Man-made
Ascertain Find out

Paint a picture

Create a lasting, vivid image in the minds of your listeners. Tell a story, draw a link to the real world or describe an abstract process in concrete terms that people can relate to. “It’s like…” or “it’s as if…” are useful starting points.

Numbers (rarely) speak for themselves

A well-chosen statistic can be very powerful when used to underscore an important point you are making. But it’s best to clearly spell out the message you’d like your data to convey. Never expect your audience to do the maths in their heads.

Instead of saying…
Try saying…
The lifetime probability of developing cervical cancer is 0.66%. One in every 150 women will develop cervical cancer during her lifetime.
Between 1990 and 2008, 586,600 hectares of new forest land was planted, leading to a net increase of 488,000 hectares. Forested land area increased nearly fivefold over the course of two decades.
Soil erosion is increasing at a rate of 6% per year. We’re losing valuable farmland faster now than at any time in the last century.

TIP: Spend some time finding descriptive, everyday words to explain key concepts in your research.


Back to Working with media