How to create a research summary page that your supporters want to read By Richard Berks, freelance science writer for charities Published: 17 August 2020 In this series of blogs, I’ll take you through how you can tell your supporters about all the great work you do so that they will want to continue to show their support (even during a pandemic). I’m starting with the research summary pages on your website, because when done well, they will leave your audience eager to learn more about the life-changing work of your charity. What's the purpose of a research summary page? Having project lay summaries on your website can be really useful for: Responding to questions from supporters Supporting fundraising appeals (e.g. direct mail) Jumping onto relevant hashtags on Twitter Regular content e.g. a ‘researcher of the month’ campaign Internal comms: providing a searchable database of interesting research for your colleagues to talk about Another important reason is transparency. Your charity’s supporters work hard to raise money for research, it’s only fair that they can find out what that money has been spent on. How do other charities do research summary pages? I scoured the websites of a few AMRC members, looking for the most common features of webpages with research project summaries. Here’s what I found: A great research summary A classic format for research project summaries (or any project by any charity) is ‘problem-solution-impact’. These examples from Diabetes UK, this one from MQ, or this from Blood Cancer UK illustrate this format well. I’ll be covering how to write a research lay summary in the next blog of the series. Also notice the short summary at the top of these. You can think of this as a movie trailer – it’s the same problem-solution-impact format, but takes less than 10 seconds to read. Photos A photo of the researcher(s) involved is an obvious choice, but it’s a good one. Science can seem quite cold and abstract to the public. But a good photo of a person can make it seem a lot more ‘real’ and tangible. So whether it’s a group photo like this example from MS Society, or an ‘action-shot’ like this one from Ovarian Cancer Action, it reminds supporters that their money is helping scientists – real people! – do amazing work. Videos Want to take it up a notch? Try video. Connect your research to your charity’s supporters by getting a researcher on camera, talking about their work in their own words. It could be something highly polished, like the videos on this research summary page from The Brain Tumour Charity. But a video doesn’t have to be professionally produced to feel authentic. One example of this is DEBRA UK, who’ve had their researchers film themselves on a smartphone or a webcam – judge the results for yourself. Quotes Using quotes is a good way to bring a research project to life. Adding different ‘voices’ onto a webpage can be used to different effects. For example, you could use a quote from the researcher, to reiterate why they’re being funded by the charity. (Putting it at the top has the double effect of acting like a ‘trailer’ for the rest of the page.) Even more powerful are quotes from ‘beneficiaries’ such as patients or their families. After all, the research is being done for people like them, so why not ask them what they think about it? Autistica has a great example of this on this summary of a project to develop an app to help people with autism deal with anxiety. Tags or categories Many research charities, particularly the larger ones with lots of research to talk about, often have ways of categorising or tagging research so that it’s easier to find other related projects. It could work as a ‘if you like this, why not try…’ mechanism, for anyone who might be idly browsing through your research project pages. It can also be a way to highlight areas of research which might otherwise go unnoticed. There’s a lot of different ways that research could be organised, but the important thing is that the tags/categories are meaningful to your supporters. Try to avoid using complicated terminology, obscure coding, or something that is only relevant to researchers. Links to other pages Considering linking your research project pages to other content on your website. With a little thought about what someone coming to that webpage might really be looking for, you can direct people to the right place. Here’s a couple of examples of that in action: In this profile of one of their researchers, Cancer Research UK has links to blogs about their work so that someone can read about their work in more depth. If someone is searching for research into certain topics, such as side-effects, perhaps it’s an issue that they’re personally struggling with. A link to relevant information might be helpful to them. For example, this page from Alzheimer’s Society is about research into food and Alzheimer’s disease. In the sidebar they’ve linked to a health page which contains advice about healthy eating with dementia. It’s simple, but it could help someone get the information that they’re really looking for. That's not the end of the story... The webpages with the information about your research projects can be really useful. But they are not the only way you’ll be communicating your charity’s research on your website. Over this series of blogs I’ll show you how you can do this in simple but engaging ways.