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Pathways to a top-scoring impact case study

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Mark Reed, Gavin Hall, Rev Ann Peart

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Abstract

This paper uses thematic and quantitative linguistic analysis to assess the content and language of the largest ever sample of graded research impact case studies, from the UK Research Excellence Framework 2014. Higher-scoring case studies were more likely to evidence significant and far-reaching impacts (rather than just presenting activities used to reach intended future impacts), and they made causal links between underpinning research and impacts. High-scoring case studies were more likely to provide specific and high-magnitude articulations of significance and reach than low-scoring cases. High-scoring case studies were more likely to contain attributional phrases, which were more likely to attribute research and/or pathways to impact, and they were written more coherently (containing more explicit causal connections between ideas and more logical connectives) than low-scoring cases. High-scoring case studies appear to have conformed to a distinctive new genre of writing, which was clear and direct, often linear and simplified in its representation of causality between research and impact, and less likely to contain expressions of uncertainty than might be normally expected in academic writing. High scoring case studies in two Main Panels were significantly easier to read than low-scoring cases, although both high and low-scoring cases tended to be of “graduate” reading difficulty. Low-scoring case studies were more likely to contain filler phrases, more likely to use unsubstantiated or vague adjectives to describe impacts, and were less likely to signpost readers to key points using sub-headings and paragraph headings. The findings can enable case study authors to better understand the genre and make content and language choices that communicates their impact as effectively as possible. While directly relevant to the assessment of impact in the UK’s Research Excellence Framework, the work also provides insights of relevance to institutions internationally who are designing evaluation frameworks for research impact.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Reichard B, Reed MS, Chubb J, Hall G, Jowett L, Peart A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Submitted

Journal: Palgrave Communications

Year: 2019

Date deposited: 21/06/2019

ISSN (electronic): 2055-1045

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Ltd.


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