Writing a blog to widen the reach of your research
Capture the interest of new and existing audiences. By presenting complex ideas in an accessible way, a blog can get your message across to more people.
For academic researchers, a blog can widen the reach of their research, translating their findings into accessible insights. What is more, it can enhance your visibility as a researcher, contributing to fostering opportunities, collaborations, and discussions with other researchers, policymakers, experts and the general public.
Follow this blog-writing guidance for tips and advice.
Creating a captivating headline
Think of a catchy headline that makes it clear what your blog is about. Alliteration can help make it stand out.
Are there any relevant words related to current topical issues or terms that the layperson would use? These could be popular keywords in search engines that would make the most of Search Engine Optimisation (which matches words entered into the search engine with words used within your headline). For example, “Adapting to the new normal: innovation and collaboration in longitudinal studies during COVID-19“, made use of the commonly-used term ‘new normal’ that was referenced in media throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Remember to keep your headline within 60 characters; this way it should appear in full when featured in search engine results.
Your first few lines are key. Many people do not read a blog (or any web page) in its entirety. This lead paragraph also features in any search engine results. The more engaging it is, the more likely people will select your blog to read.
A good start is to:
- Summarise what you want the blog to promote and any call to action.
- Aim for 120-155 characters. Search engines pull a limited number of characters to display in search results.
- Outline your key message/conclusion and keep it to a couple of main points.
Any further points you wish to make should be covered in a follow-up blog(s) to ensure that your blog remains short and sweet (ideally around 500-800 words).
An engaging blog presents an argument, an opinion, a unique voice. Think about current topics circulating in the media for potential news hooks; are there any angles that are likely to interest your target audience?
A note of caution: you should consider any controversy surrounding the topic of your blog. Views may be cited and shared beyond your intended audience.
Keep your writing informal and make it personal to you. Evidence does not need to be cited for every point that you make. The tone should be fit for your audience. We recommend:
- Use plain language and avoid jargon
- Short, punchy sentences work best; try to avoid more than four sentences to a paragraph.
- Use the active voice and avoid the passive.
Stick to the same tense throughout your article. If you are speaking directly to the reader in the first paragraph, maintain that throughout the blog.
You may find it helpful to check out CLOSER’s blogs for some examples.
Images are a great way to break up your text and present information in an engaging way. When using images, there are several things to consider:
- Ensure you have copyright for any photos or images/cite the source.
- Images typically work best when they are landscape in orientation and around 768px by 514px in size.
Sub-headings, lists or bullet points are another way to break up your content and make it easier for readers to scan the text. It also helps make your content accessible, enabling people using screen readers to tab through to find relevant content.
It is important to ensure that you make your blog as accessible as possible. Tips on making content accessible include:
- Hyperlinks: make sure you use descriptive hyperlinks that make sense when read in isolation/out of context. For example: write ‘CLOSER website‘ instead of https://closer.ac.uk.
- Emphasis: avoid the use of bold or italics for emphasis. By default, screen readers do not inform users of any bold or italicised text. Headings can work just as well.
- Complex diagrams: avoid images of text. Relevant information conveyed within an image should be added as alternative text. As a rule, alternative text should be kept brief, the shorter the better and preferably no more than 150 characters.
A final note
A nice way to end your blog is to provide some suggested relevant further reading. Any follow-up blogs, recent papers/research that you have produced, or links to any websites that you work on.
Once your blog is published, you may wish to use social media to promote it. Check out our ‘Using social media to disseminate your research’ page for further advice.