As I’ve been writing papers aimed for law journal publication, I keep coming back to my frustration that whatever I write for such a journal, it’s likely to be read so much less than a blog post. Maybe people will read the abstract, maybe some will scan through to find something of use to them, and maybe even some students will be assigned to read it for a class and read just enough to get through a discussion on it.
I’ve been daydreaming some possible ways to make academic research more engaging & consumable. Even if people will not read the full 20, 30, 40 pages of a journal paper, how might we make the text come alive in a way that people can get a full sense of what is covered and what insights emerged from the piece.
For both planning & then presenting an academic paper, I’ve drafted up a 1-page Visual Paper Plan.
In this sheet, the author can quickly summarize the meat of their work:
- their guiding questions
- the literature they’re working form
- the idea & hypotheses they’re exploring
- the research findings that have emerged
- takeaways and future directions
This cover sheet offers more depth than a one-paragraph abstract, and it gives more visual flow to the work. I have been using it to make my writing more structured and on-point.
I would love if other authors would fill in such a visual template — even if it is just with little clips of text, fit into this type of flow. Instead of a paltry abstract to go by, I would be able to examine the contents of a paper in a thorough but glance-able way. I’d know better if a paper was really worth a half hour of reading, and I would also be more excited about actually reading it if I had already been oriented by the one-pager.
There must be other great ideas to get academic knowledge & research findings out of cold, long journal papers & into a wider conversation. I can also see short videos, illustrated cartoon storyboards, and other more visual representations. A visual paper plan one-pager would be one of the simplest, least-resource-intensive way of making academic work more accessible. I will be making them for my work — hopefully others will do the same.