Foster Communication Skills During Student Research Projects

By Leona Henryson Professional Learning

The pillars of good research include accuracy, good data, good methodologies, and great communication skills. That last part is often overlooked. The idea that research speaks for itself is a myth. If that were true, only scientifically valid information would gain traction.

We all know that isn’t always true, however. In fact, have you ever witnessed poor medical advice being accepted as truth on social media? This happens often because erroneous, even dangerous information presented in a convincing way can still be quite influential. At the same time, information that is factually accurate will be ignored if it is not presented in a way that people can understand it. This illustrates the importance of good communication.

Student researchers are tasked with communicating the results of their research to an audience. To teach your students research skills, you need to employ good communication skills every step of the way.

The Impact of Communication Skills on Research

As your students begin researching any academic topic, start them with the following questions:

  • What are you trying to figure out?
  • What questions are you trying to answer?
  • What information do you need?

To get the answers, your students will have to ask the right questions in the right way.

How do you get them to do this? Begin by teaching them how to write carefully tailored research questions. By learning how to frame their questions clearly, your students will become better researchers and better participants in their group projects.

 

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Photo: iStock by Getty Images / Yuri_Arcurs

The Role of Communication Skills in Research Writing

The role of great communication skills continues as your students write research papers or work on group projects. That’s because the impact of a research paper or project is limited in its ability to communicate research clearly.

Jeff Myers, an education blogger at Rated by Students, knows the importance of writing to a specific audience. According to him, “The first thing you will need to do is understand your audience. Are you presenting your research to other academics, to a committee to gain funding for further research, or to members of the community in order to educate them about a specific topic? Whatever the case may be, you have to prevent your information in a way that engages your audience, and in a way that they understand. Write at the level of your audience.”

Next, it is important for your students to understand the difference between writing about complex topics and writing in a complex manner. The first is a part of academic writing. The latter is rarely necessary. In fact, when students write using needlessly stilted academic jargon, their overall topic can suffer. Even readers who have the academic background to understand complex writing often have difficulty comprehending complicated sentences. Encourage your students to use language that is as clear, simple, and straightforward as possible.

Additionally, give your students the opportunity to partake in peer review sessions if time permits. Receiving feedback from peers on their research writing is good practice for students to employ communication skills in a controlled environment and ensure that their ideas are written as clearly and concisely as possible.

Finally, the issue of brevity is very important in student research projects. Good research reporting is concise. It takes the topic—and the reader’s time—into consideration and gets straight to the point. Teaching your students to be good researchers begins by teaching them to understand how long a paper should be and to make every effort not to exceed that.

 

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Photo: iStock by Getty Images / Rawpixel

Communication Skills and a Research Topic

Whether your students are doing a formal thesis-based paper or research presentation or using information informally in a classroom discussion, they should aim to be able to defend their research and the conclusions that they reach. This is where the shift happens from written communication skills to verbal communication skills.

One of the most important things your students should be able to do in a discussion of any research is to remain calm, polite, and open. A good researcher is interested in arriving at the truth or as close to it as they can get. That’s why fostering communication skills during research projects is of the utmost importance. Students must learn to discuss contradictory ideas and opinions without becoming defensive. The addition of this information can be helpful to expand the discussion of their ideas, even if other students disagree with their conclusions.

Ideally, a student’s research will always be read and understood as they intended, but this won’t always be the case. Sometimes research projects and papers will often need to drill down into further detail on certain points and to provide clarification on others. Students may encounter circumstances where their research points are generally misunderstood by peers or you as the teacher. Students who have developed positive communication skills are able to handle these situations gracefully. They see these roadblocks as an opportunity to inform and educate their audience, engage in important dialogue, and learn how to improve their writing in the future.

One of the most important things that your students will gain as they discuss and defend their research is new knowledge and new perspectives. That’s why it is important that you teach them how to be willing to take on new evidence and information and incorporate that into their research project. This will allow them to gain the communication skills necessary to grow as researchers.

 

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Final Thoughts

Whether you assign an individual or group project, teaching your students to incorporate good communication skills into every aspect of the research process is essential to making them successful. This includes researching the topic, writing the research paper and notes, and presenting that research to peers and instructors. By working hard to hone student communication skills, you will make them well-equipped researchers and ready to be successful communicators in their academic and professional careers.


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Leona Henryson is a web designer and educational blogger for the Top Writers Review website. She enjoys sharing her experience with students and teachers to help them study in a more effective and fun way.

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