How to Translate Research Data into Compelling Stories That People Would Read or Listen, and Care — Tips for Effective Scientific and Medical Communication

What's Your Story Concept text on background

You and your team have successfully completed a study, and now you have a story to tell. Whether the results are what you expected or not, they deserve to be analyzed and shared. But how do you effectively communicate your results with others, especially those who don’t know your study well?

When used appropriately, storytelling can enhance both verbal and written communication.

And here are some tips that I have learned from some of the best writers and communicators.

1. Know your data. It doesn’t matter the results are negative or positive, if the study was well designed and conducted, the data have something useful to tell. Now analyze the data carefully, and figure out what the data are trying to tell you.

2. Understand your audience. After you have analyzed your data and crafted a clear message, it’s time to get to know your target audience. Whom are you expecting to read your article, or listen to your presentation? How much do they know about the topic? And what’s the purpose of your writing or speaking to them? Do you want to provide some basic information to the general public, give a quick update to colleagues, or help patients change certain behavior? The more you know your audience, the more effectively you could possibly communicate with them.

3. Use an audience-friendly language. Once  you have a good understanding of your audience, you can then decide what type of communication style you should use. Unless you  

you are writing or speaking to your peers, try to avoid using highly technical words (jargons). And if possible, support your message with multimedia supplements.

4. Develop a story. Now you have a core message to deliver and you know your audience well, develop a story around the message. To tell a good story that will engage the reader or listener, try the following.

  • Organize your thoughts and data logically. Logical presentation helps increase the flow and the readability of your story.
  • Start with an engaging beginning. In verbal communication such as a presentation, a relevant personal story can often attract the audience’s attention.
  • End with a well-supported conclusion or concise summary. Depending on your message, it may be appropriate for you to end your story with a call for action.

5. Deliver your message. When giving an oral presentation, speak concisely, clearly. Pay attention to the volume of your voice and the speed of your speech. Too slow, you may put your audience to sleep. Too fast, you may lose your audience. The goal is to keep your audience’s attention throughout your presentation.

When writing an article, try to write informatively and concisely, and use active voice.

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