Part of the interview day involves giving a presentation on how I would disseminate the findings from the large number of diverse projects funded by the Programme. I thought I'd blog about it a bit here, as it was a very interesting exercise. Here you can view the PowerPoint presentation I did.
Much of the knowledge about how users read online comes from studies by Jakob Nielsen (of useit.com), an expert in web usability. Of particular interest are his conclusions that users seek immediate gratification, scan pages rather than read them, don't scroll down to read longer pages, and want to exercise agency in navigation.
These findings suggest that successful online dissemination of research
- scans easily (meaning paragraphs are short, key words are highlighted, and further information is bullet-pointed),
- is concise (online text should be half the word count of print text),
- and is journalistic (written in an inverted pyramid starting with conclusions, then key information, and finally background information so the user can determine how much detail to go into).
Successful online dissemination also
- helps users determine the value of a page immediately (i.e. whether or not the contents will be of use to them)
- is user-driven (so that users exercise agency in how the site is navigated and information is approached and accessed)
- and breaks down information by subject (so that there are no excessively long pages). [I obviously haven't mastered this last point in my blog!!!]
All these devices are geared towards attracting users and convincing them of the value of printing off longer documents.
Based on these insights, I developed a strategy for the thematic disseminations of findings from the projects commissioned by the Programme.
I suggested that, firstly, there should be an easily scan-able list of hyperlinked primary headings which enable users to choose how to approach the data. For this particular brief I chose 12 primary headings, which were:
- the 7 Programme research themes (meaning, defining, being; identity, community, welfare and prosperity; religion, violence and conflict resolution; religion, media and the arts; texts, spaces, rituals and objects; education and socialisation; and law, politics and the state),
- religious traditions (so users could go straight to findings related to particular religions),
- social factors (so users could access data on factors such as age, ethnicity, or class),
- policy impact (so users could go to those findings with implications for public policy),
- methodological concerns (because the Programme aims included not only advancing knowledge about religion and society but also promoting interdisciplinarity, developing productive working relationships between researchers and research subjects, and encouraging reflexivity within the study of religion and society),
- and individual research projects (so users could go straught to a summary of a particular project - written by the Research Associate).
I drew up some prospective thematic divisions (for this particular brief) using the suggestions made in the descriptions of the Programme's research themes as well as the available titles and proposals of projects commisioned to date. Clicking on, for example, "law, politics and the state" would take the user through to a contents page where the primary heading is split into subheadings (in this case, religion and law; religion and politics; religion and state; and contested concepts) which then divided again into further categories and subcategories.
Each (sub)title in the contents list takes the user to a report (written by the Research Assistant), which synthesises findings from commissioned projects according to subject, under such titles as "Freedom of speech and blasphemy," "Religion and British identity," "Religious visions of society," or "Tolerance."
Each report synthesising findings is structured using
- the cross-cutting theme heading,
- a summary statement to enable users to determine page-value
- a thematic "non-specialist" presentation of findings (with quick links to sections of the report, again to indicate page-value to users)
- and hyperlinks within the text to more specialist content so users can choose to access more information.
- read individual project summaries
- download project documents (e.g. tables of data, graphs, questionnaires, bibliographies, or the full text research findings provided by principal investigators)
- visit project / research partner websites
- buy Programme / individual project publications
- read journal abstracts and online articles
- read other online output
- locate other output and related bodies (including newspaper and magazine articles; policy documents; organisations; communities; similar regional, national and transnational research programmes and projects, e.g. Disasporas, Migration and Identities or NORFACE).
Clearly, both the contents pages and the reports drawn up from Phase 1 research findings would be further refined and augmented as and when findings come in from the other two phases of projects. Also, this is a strategy for dissemination via the Internet, where findings are broken down into accessible and manageable "chunks"; other forms of dissemination would require other (probably much broader) subject headings.
- allow users to navigate through 12 primary headings
- provide brief summaries of findings clusters to enable users to determine page value
- display easily scan-able contents pages under each primary heading
- enable users to choose "links in" to concise, non-specialist, thematic reports (by RA)
- include links within the reports to allow specialist users to access further content
- make it easy for users to confirm the value of findings
- convince users to print off full text documents (from PI) or buy publications.