Being able to effectively communicate your research to audiences not within your field is one of the most important aspects of research. Most people who come across your study likely will not be in your field and, in order for your study to have credibility, it is important for you to be able to show people why your study matters. For example, you might be applying for a grant of some kind where the heads of the grant committee are not in your field. If they cannot understand your research then they likely will not think that it is good enough for them to fund. There are three main strategies that one can use to communicate their research to people outside their field.
- Avoid Jargon
Jargon are considered words that are only well known in the field which they are from. If I am trying to communicate my research to a general audience then I would not want to include words that they will not understand. If you have to use jargon, then use it very sparingly and make sure to explain fully what the word means.
2. Avoid being patronizing when explaining your research to people.
People never like to be talked down to, and when you are explaining something that you know well to someone who does not know it well it can be easy to fall into the trap of talking down to that person. Avoid sounding put out when they ask questions and certainly do not assume that they have the same knowledge on the subject as you do.
3. Practice with your friends!
When I was applying for the Brackenridge fellowship I sent my proposal to multiple friends to see if they could understand it. If your friends from outside your field can understand your research than other people from outside your field will likely be able to as well. Friends are an easy, low-stakes way to practice explaining your research in layman’s terms.
I am planning on going into the Medical field, so most of my research will likely stay within the field. However, that does not mean that these skills are not valuable. I have noticed that during the COVID pandemic a lot of medical researchers have started having to explain their research to non-medical people like journalists who want to report on it. This is a valuable skill because it ensures that their research will be reported on more than the research done by people who were not able to explain it well to the journalists.