Promoting your research: a guide for PhD students

Pranav S. Kulkarni
23 Sep ’21

The research conducted by PhD students is an essential fuel that makes the university engines work. It forms a large part, if not the majority, of the research work done in many labs across the world. Yet, I find that most of the studies done by PhD students wilt away in the shadows of high impact publications of seasoned research teams.

As a PhD student, the quality of your research output is -amongst other things- important for future career steps. So, to inform academia of your work and to present the quality of the work that you did, your research should be promoted. This not only improves your profile as a researcher, but also informs the world of your contribution in your domain. Therefore, there must be a way to showcase the efforts as well as profound knowledge that is generated via the PhD research.

In this blog, I would like to point out some of the ways that I found helpful in promoting my work.

1. Conference presentations

The first step to bring your work to light is by presenting it. Conference presentations bring your work into the public scrutiny of fellow academics and superiors. All conferences conducted worldwide have a presentation and poster section for early-stage researchers like PhD students to promote their work. I would recommend making use of this incentive.

Personally, I had a great opportunity to present my first ever PhD study in a large EU based conference called SVEPM. This not only helped me promote my work but also make some new connections in my area of study. Moreover, I got to publish the work in a special edition of a journal due to this presentation. Knowing which conferences to attend will help you promote your work.

2. Departmental congress

Both the university departments I work in have internal meetings for PhD students to present their current work. By doing this, the whole department is kept informed of the current research being done as well as bringing into focus the latest findings of PhD research.

I found that this is a great opportunity to discuss my study in a comfortable environment of familiar peers and superiors. My suggestion to all PhD students would be to use this opportunity if you have it in your departments.

3. Social media

Social media is the most obvious and prolific tool to promote anything these days. You can use your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, AcademicsConnected profiles to provide links to your study and inform your friends, family, peers, and the general public of what you are up to. I find this a better use of public fora than just retweeting cute cat pictures, don’t you?

4. Journal promotions

A lot of good journals out there have in-built promotional tools for researchers. These can include front page illustration of articles, graphical abstracts, display of articles on front page of journal website, etc. A simple decision to print your journal article in colour instead of greyscale can go a long way in catching the readers’ eyes and spike their interests. Depending on the cost that your research team can spare for these tools, you can make use of them quite effectively.

5. Publishing open access

Another part of any good journal’s paraphernalia is the choice of publishing open access. This allows non-subscribers and subscribers alike to view the full-length manuscript of your study. This choice can go a long way in showcasing your research to the world outside.

Nowadays, most universities will promote the publication of open access articles. So, it is always prudent for PhD students to avail themselves of these options. The choice of publishing open access should be a criteria when you select a journal to publish your work.

6. Writing or reporting popular articles

If your research is of sufficient social impact, it is always a good idea to write a popular article or a blog about it. This helps the non-scientific public get an idea of your research without having the necessary expertise to tackle all the scientific jargon.

Sometimes, media outlets and newspapers might contact you to do a piece on your study if it is of vital importance. This also goes a long way in promoting your findings. Other times, you can contact the personnel responsible for media outreach and PR in your own department to promote your article through this medium. If your work fits the bill, I suggest you make use of these tactics as well.

7. Public repository database

As a PhD student, I found that one of the easiest ways to collaborate in a team of researchers is to make use of repositories such as GitHub. Once the work is published, you can make this repository publicly available so that anyone following your work can get their hands on non-sensitive data and metadata. Public can also follow the progression of the research as these platforms have in-built version control in them. Therefore, it can become a promotional tool with no extra effort. You can also create mini websites on some of these platforms and then link them to your social media profile to make the study visible.

8. Workshops and public speeches

Sometimes, given an opportunity, you might get a chance to conduct a workshop or deliver a speech on your subject of interest. This can be inside the university or in public. In such instances, you can easily promote your current research.

However, care must be taken that the subject of your workshop or speech is relevant to the subject of your current research. I once attended a workshop on dairy management where the coordinators explained the state-of-art developments in the field through their own research work.

In summary, there are many things that you can use effectively, as a PhD student, to promote your work. It is a shame and a great waste to see your work wither away in the large pile of research being done every day.

I hope this blog will inform you of some of the ways in which you can promote your research, build up a solid work profile and inform the world of your endeavours.

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