by Klaus Dodds
If you wish to communicate and publish outside the academy then it is highly likely you will need to learn a different way of communicating, including writing. Over the last twenty years, I have deliberately chosen to engage with policy-makers, the media, and a range of international organisations including non-governmental organisations, and oil and gas companies interested in the Arctic/High North. Over that time, I have published in professional/corporate magazines (e.g. Lloyds Register), environmental publications (e.g. WWF outlets), defence/diplomacy journals (e.g. RUSI Journal), popular magazines (e.g. Geographical, BBC History, and History Today) and a multitude of other forums, including blogs.
Publishing in such a variety of publications is challenging and when I started my career there was no guidance available for such activities, and to be perfectly honest there was little encouragement to do so. As one senior professor at the University of Bristol told me, my writing priorities should focus on the production of academic journal articles and eventually books – sole authored or edited. While I heeded this advice, my doctoral topic (geopolitics, foreign policy analysis and the Falklands/Antarctic) attracted interest from non-academic audiences. So I was faced with a dilemma of sorts – did I want to engage with these audiences and what might they expect, even demand?
If you are going to engage with these diverse audiences, I would suggest bearing the following in mind – you need to have the confidence to express complex ideas simply but not simplistically. Do not expect to seek refuge in dense theorising. You need to bear in mind that some of these audiences (e.g. policy-makers) are highly intelligent people with intense time pressures. You’re writing/speaking needs to be concise, crisp and confident in tone. One side of paper might be all you have; in other words an executive summary.
You will need, if writing for popular journals or magazines, to be able to tell stories that capture the imagination of readers. They are paying for the publication and its content; they expect to be enlightened, informed and possibly entertained. One-way to tackle this is to try and think of something slightly unusual about your research area. So, for example, what I tend to say about the Antarctic is that its apparently exceptional nature is useful because it helps us understand territorial nationalism closer to home, such as waving flags, place naming, making maps and demarcating territory. Regardless of topic, you need to be prepared to think about narrative – a dramatic start might help but you certainly need a clear take home message.
Publishing is a crucial, but sometimes daunting and unexplained, part of academic life. All academic geographers are supposed to do it, but there are few formal guidelines about how best it should be done. Many of us discover how to publish by trial and error or through the mentoring and support of colleagues. Publishing and academic landscapes also change, presenting new challenges to established academics. The publishing and getting read guides have four main aims: to provide clear, practical and constructive advice about how to publish research in a wide range of forms; to encourage you to think strategically about your publication profile and plans; to set out some of the opportunities and responsibilities you have as an author; and to support you in getting your published research read.
by C Kinpaisby-Hill
by Alison Blunt, Madeleine Hatfield and Fiona Nash
by Matt Jenkins
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