How Do I Differentiate My Research?

How can I make my research paper stand out from all the others?

This is a very common question that colleagues ask us in our workshops and training sessions.

You can be different in your research writing — more eye-catching and more memorable!

This is also important if you are going to get your work published in leading journals where editors, of course, want to see work that’s a little different. More cross-cutting and multi-disciplinary.

1. Don’t write for yourself, write for your readers

Do NOT make the mistake that most research authors make when writing up their papers. Don’t write for yourself. Instead, write for your readers!

Try to put yourself inside the minds of your readers; these are the people, after all, who will use (and hopefully cite) our work! Most academic writers put articles together for themselves, not for their readers.

How many times have you sat down to read an article in your field and ended up switching off? Going off and doing something else because the writing was too impenetrable and hard to understand?

Research writers often fall foul of what we like to call ‘cognitive bias’: This is where you assume that your readers understand as much about a particular subject as you do. It’s all too common in academic writing.

Getting closer to your readers is your starting point to differentiate your research writing from the work of others.

2. Step back and see the bigger picture

Step back and see the bigger picture. Most academic writers get hung up on the details of their own research project, especially students.

A template to work from is to start broad; begin the Introduction of your next paper with the big picture, the reason that someone coming into the study should be interested, before focusing down gradually to the actual nuts and bolts of the work.

Your sentence structure and, therefore, paragraph structure will influence your reader’s interpretations and, thus, how much your work is both understandable and differentiates from other papers.

Science is a massive universe of subjects and interesting topics. You need to develop techniques to guide your reader from the broader, bigger picture down to the specfic details of your key research outcomes.

So, rather than starting out by talking about the specific research area of your study, soil chemical reactions, let’s say, begin by talking about the bigger picture:

“Soil is a major source of pollution. This pollution results from building developments and the release of waste and chemicals.”

You then get more specific:

Understanding the chemical reactions that take place in soil can help us to better assess pollution and understand changes in local ecosystems”.

People will be more interested. Your writing will be better differentiated from the work of others.

Use experiences as a springboard. Start with what you know and be aware of what makes your observations unique.

3. Ask the right question, then answer it!

The first stage of research is framing a meaningful question. Ask yourself: Are people going to be interested in this idea? More importantly: Is this research going to result in a high-profile paper? How can you come up with good research ideas’?

You want to find a way to ensure that the research you do, and the questions you ask, will result in high profile publications.

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