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Deciding what becomes a research brief

Deciding what becomes a research brief

The spring/summer 2014 issue of Research Frontiers is out and the fall/winter one is on its way.

Research is a team effort. Like the studies featured on the Research Frontiers’ pages, a myriad of communicators come together compile briefs, feature stories, graphics, photos, and create a layout that unites it all.

This week I received my first editing (as opposed to writing) assignment: select and prepare the next issue’s research briefs. At first I thought that would be a complicated task, but as I let Barbara finish her explanation I realized I could breathe again.

When I was a student I usually kept up with the University’s Newswire. So on the occasion I found a Research Frontiers copy, I could read along and recognize some of the stories. Research briefs are snippits of news releases—why didn’t I think of that before?

It starts as simple as sifting through news releases with the “research and innovation” tags, but I did have to look carefully at titles and content. Sometimes the headline of a news release sounds like it might include details about a professor’s study, but sometimes the focus is more on a grant or presentation. Some research releases mention the company involved, but not the university researcher. Other stories include study details, but the details cover one or two paragraphs—briefs are longer than that.

So I found more than enough potential briefs from news releases released since the last batch of releases used for the previous Research Frontiers issue. Great. But what kind of editorial strategies come into play when choosing the finalists?

Diversity. For instance, this summer there has been a lot of news releases about engineers. Pick the ones that may have broader appeal and come from different departments, and you have a handful of finalists.

We do have diversity. As a large institution, the University of Arkansas could have focused on a handful of programs or developed a variety. It’s the classic depth versus breadth. We have breadth, and every issue of Research Frontiers covers content across as many as departments that will fit between the front and back covers.

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