I have always been a fan of the Common Craft “In Plain English” series of videos that explain concepts like Social Media (circa 2008) or Wikis. Often these videos demonstrate, outline, or explain a complex/novel idea. The concept of explaining ideas or video “how to’s” is not a novel idea, and these are perpetuated today as we see explainer videos on Personalized Learning and Augmented Reality for education.
In thinking about the research and scholarship we do, how often do we share our ideas openly and “in plain English” for others to digest? I have always been a fan of the lol my thesis; however, I am more impressed by those who can meet the Three Minute Thesis challenge or have contributed to the Research in Plain English blog posts in the #phdchat community. One reason I am a fan of all of the above is pure and simple – knowledge sharing. These acts/events require scholars to summarize the “so what” of their research and it requires scholars to engage with an unfamiliar audience, who might not read it in an academic publication. The sharing of research goes beyond the SPARC and open access rights (self/ paid publications) and open dissertations from our early career scholars (Thanks for the post, Bon). We also need to think about others beyond our discipline, research area, and ask — what are the practical applications of our research we need to outline from our journal articles or conference proceedings?
A couple of months ago George Veletsianos shared a Profhacker blog post about how we are Using Video and Audio to Share Our Scholarship with The Social Media and Digital Research Group. I think we are trying to provide access, share information, and put the word out about our findings and implications. How else can some of these evidence-based ideas get put into practice? Right? The issue is — some of this “beyond the academic publication” does take a bit of work.
As I have been tasked with developing a these “Research Shorts” on our YouTube channel, I thought I would share my experiences in what I have learned from scripting and visualizing publications. Also, I promised Ian a response to his comment [so sorry for the delay — it’s been a busy semester for me]:
Awesome post. Really a lot to think about! I have nothing to add in terms of interesting ideas on how to share the research – yours are really interesting and inspiring! However, I did start to wonder about time and tone.
In terms of time – how much does all this take you? And is it valued by your institution? For those of us more junior and precarious than yourself, it’s really hard to strike the balance between getting our research heard, and getting permanent jobs.
In terms of tone – your research fits animation wonderfully. I wonder how different type of research might manage to use video or audio styles, e.g. sociology that deals with sensitive issues. Then you’d need to be a master animator – or be able to pay someone who was – not to come across as crass.
Time: It does take some time. I am the dedicated person to put together most of the scripts for the videos you see on the YouTube Channel. This has been my task since June 2016. Forget the time put in for data collection, coding/analysis, and academic writing for the journal publication, showcasing your work in this way does take a bit of effort. I do have a full-time faculty appointment and projects of my own beyond this task, so I did my best to fit in these 8 videos and another 4 “in editing” where I could. There are other things to consider — review of the script and edits, visualizations to collect (images, edits, and then some), waiting for audio narration by an author, and the final edits and uploads. Once in the groove of developing the scripts, getting the audio narration, and visualizing in the Audioscribe tool we use, the average time equation goes like this for one single video:
- 1-2 hour for scripting (key points and findings for the article) +
- 30-60 minutes for narration and setting up CC licensed music +
- 5-6 hours putting the animations/drawings to the narration (this may vary) +
- 1-2hour reviewing/editing +
- 1-2hour rendering to YouTube & adding the closed captions from the script
- = 12-15 hours total per article [May vary per article, i.e. if I helped to research/author]
Tone: Thanks for the compliments for the animation to audio — I appreciate it! (This is why this part takes the most time). This step varies by article topic. I used to draw storyboards at the beginning of this process, but once I became familiar with the VideoScribe platform functionality and repository of visuals — I just designed animations via the script. There are animations and images for different disciplines, including business, political science, journalism, natural sciences, etc. That being said, the free images are limited and you might have to search for other Creative Commons resources to add to the video. There are a number of drawings or animations available for free — no hiring of artist needed! It will require some solid search skills and a dash of creativity for “HOW” you want your audio narrative to be visualized.
Value: You asked about institutional value. Good question. The above does take some additional time and effort. I believe this dissemination of visualized research was actually written into a grant and/or our research project (George can verify). This premise is to widely share these research findings and evidence-based strategies to the scholarly community and practitioners in education. Sharing on YouTube offers additional optimization for reach, SEO, and tracking for views/shares + embedding into websites and blog posts. Also, the visual and narrated audio contextualizes the research, outlines the research questions, shares the study findings, and provides implications in a rich, multi-media format beyond the traditional text.
In drafting a short narrative for each academic journal article, I have put some thought into what goes into my script writing. Condensing a long-form publication into a 2-4 minute script is a fun and challenging task. It has forced me to think about my own research questions, identifying specific goals for implications, and to consider how I present “academic speak” or work to a broader audience. I want to make sure my research is understood, accessible and applied. This video/audio/scripting practice has made me think about my how I disseminate research while I’m in the thick of data collection, drafting articles, and sharing final products/findings. I have used this summary format within my own research teams and I continue to support other early career scholars (in class or on a dissertation committee) about finding “the point” for empirical literature.
What would it take for you to offer a “research short” video, image, or snapshot of your scholarly work? If you are interested in animating your research, your project, or highlighting your work, please feel free to reach out to me to inquire. I have continued to support clients for the Research Shorts YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/researchshorts) and other colleagues. Thanks!
4 thoughts on “Research Shorts In Plain English: Time, Tone, and Value”
Thanks for writing this Laura. It’s really, really helpful to know exactly how much time it takes to do this. I think I was a little worried it might become a time eating monster, but it’s really not the case.
It’s great that you have an institution that values this sort of work. I know from speaking to other people that any attempts to disseminate research aside from journals is seen as not ‘serious’ scholarly work. In an age in which everything is measured, I guess such places haven’t found out how to measure it yet.
Happy to (finally) share about this, Ian. In talking to George about institutional, value he said [Royal Roads] recognizes and values this as scholarship, per Boyer and the scholarship of teaching and learning.
I think sharing the scholarly work in this way does get the implications and findings out to a wider audience, while still highlighting the research publication in a visual format. Let me know if/when you decide to dive into this effort or if you have questions. I’m happy to help!