The final stage of your research is disseminating the findings to an appropriate audience. Dissemination can take many forms: a paper in a journal, conference paper or presentation, a formal report or a dissertation/thesis for postgraduate study.
Issues of intellectual property need to be thought through, ideally before the research commences, but definitely at the stage of writing the final report. Some funded research might be carried out for agencies or organisations, e.g. the Department of Health or Education. Often the results of the research and the report become the property of the commissioning organisation and the report may have to be written in a particular format or for a particular audience, for example to support a government initiative.
Before you start the research it is helpful to clarify with everyone who will be involved with the work just who is responsible for what. Once the research is designed and underway, then you should have an idea of what papers or conference presentations might emerge and who will be lead author of each. Although this is bound to change a little as the results arrive, agreeing authorship and contributions early on makes for a much more harmonious research team. It is very easy to feel slighted about one’s contribution to research and these academic grudges can last for years, so it is well worth making regular checks on everyone's understanding in supervision or team meetings.
One of the most common written means of disseminating research findings is through publication of a paper in a peer-reviewed journal or a formal project report. Where you send a paper for publication depends on many things:
- the type of work they usually publish
- the rejection rate
- the speed with which you want it in print
- the speed of their refereeing system
- what audience you want to appeal to
....and so on.
Before the research is completed it is a good idea to write the introduction and the method – you can always update the literature in the introduction before you submit the research for publication. That way, when you have the results you will be more than halfway to a publication – and that’s a great incentive to get it finished.
Parsell and Bligh (1999) summarise a typical structure of a journal article with the acronym IMRAD.
- Introduction – why did we do it?
- Methods – what did we do?
- Results – what did we find?
- Analysis – what does this mean?
- Discussion – so what? And what next?
See the Teachers’ toolkit item A framework for writing up your research where we have expanded the IMRAD framework to cover different written outputs.
Create your reference list as you go. All of us think we will remember where a particular reference came from, but none of us manages it – irrespective of age – and it’s very frustrating to be at the final polish before publication and find you are unable to locate the missing ones. Computer programs such as Reference Manager™ and Endnote™ make storing and handling references in different styles considerably easier. Mendeley™ is a freely downloadable software program that also stores PDF documents.